Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dwaine Visits the GFE -- by Dwaine

Vicious Cycles promotes a number of Gran Fondo style events in Eastern Washington and I finally experienced the fun. 'Gran Fondo Ephrata' is the first Fondo of the five event series and is described as the 'easy' one. This year's event used a modifed course due to snow. This change lowered the climbing to just 3500 feet but extended the length to 84 miles. About 30 of those miles are on relatively smooth gravel roads. This was my first Vicious Cycles Fondo and I learned a bunch.

At the end of this post I've included a link to a short video that gives a racer's view of the event and the mixed surfaces we encountered.

For this event I brought my commuting/rain/rando Cannondale T700. This 90's aluminum touring bike has aluminum fenders, a front rack, and an eight speed downtube shifted drive train. It rolls on 35mm Pasela road tires with tubes and latex sealant. This tire setup is heavy and probably costs a bit in rolling resistance but has proven reliable and gravel worthy. Although not modern this bike has served me well and is well tested. It also stood out in a sea of modern Carbon bikes.

Ephrata was forecast for temps from 30 to 50 degress and overcast skies. The four mile neutral roll out did not help me warm up much. But I was thankful as the first couple miles were narrow with an irrigation ditch waiting for any rider who strayed off the two track path.

As soon as we were released the pace quickened yet I was able to stay in touch with the lead group. This 16 mile section was paved, flat, and featured a headwind. Perfect conditions to 'sit in' the protection of the group.

At mile 20 we started up the Overen Road reroute. This dirt road climb quickly strung the group out and I chose to ascend at a safe and steady pace. At the top of the 700 foot climb I burnt a match to close the 50 foot gap to the next rider. But it was for naught. I encountered no riders interested in descending Overen at Cyclocross pace.

When I hit the Baird Springs Rd junction I joined two other riders. I knew this road was a slight descent but did not realize it was unpaved. We worked together at a pretty hot pace. The pace was faster than I preferred and the loose gravel kept it interesting. The other two riders seemed keen on bridging to a group up the road. We caught the group of five at the tunnel and I hid in the back for the next few miles in an attempt to regain my strength.

Sitting in was a good plan executed too late. At the 30 mile mark we encountered a small climb on Stuhlmiller Rd. We could see what I believe was the lead group cresting the climb. But my legs were already hurting. After the Stulmiller climb we eventually regrouped but I was now clearly in a group that wanted a faster pace than I did. Yet I chose to stay in the group for the next ten miles until we reached the aid station at mile 42.

Instead of stopping at the aid station I leveraged my onboard resources. I brought enough food and water for the entire ride.

Just as I passed the aid station a small group exitted. Yeah! One of the riders indicated he needed to make a rolling water closet stop and I followed suit.

We then started working on closing the 100 yard gap and my body said 'No, uh-uh, sorry'. I yelled to the other rider 'I'm out' and sat up.

At this point I pondered my situation. I knew that the next 18 miles were up the nearly flat Palisades Rd. which often includes a head wind. I had been warned that this is the point in which a rider most wants to be sharing the work. Yet I was alone, tired, and watching the group ahead quickly shrink in the distance. So I slowed substantially and started consuming the food and water I had carried for the previous two hours. At my slow pace I knew my strength would return.

When the first group came to me I joined but was spit out the back with a minute or two. They were too fast for my tired body.

The experience with the second group to come by was similar except that I gave up more quickly.

The third group to come by was moving faster than I wanted but I managed to barely hang with them. I had a good suffer going but was at least moving faster than if alone. It was at this time that another rider in the group noticed my rear tire riding a little low. I chose to hope for the best and to keep pedalling until I was forced to make a repair.

As we moved up Palisades road the wind subsided a bit. When the road neared the end of this valley the road turned to smooth dirt and was sometimes in the shade of the steep cliffs. I don't know if the dirt slowed the group of the shade refreshed my soul, but I started to regain my composure. Of course, this didn't last long.

At about the 60 mile mark we left the shade of the canyon walls and started up the 'Three Devils'. The first is short and quite steep at 15% or so. I chose my lowest gear and entered survival mode. This was the low point of my day.

Dwaine showed off the Cyclopath jersey for GFE. This photo taken as the group is just seconds from starting up the first of the Devils.


Despite the difficulty of the first pitch by the time I summitted the last of the Devils I was in better shape than when I started. With no group to dictate my pace I chose a steady and sustainable pace that allowed me to get back into my comfort zone. I was now about 65 miles into the ride, nursing a cramp, and hanging onto another rider's wheel. He was in about the same shape and also fighting a cramp.

At mile 72 I was passed by three riders wearing Vicious Cycles kits who seemed open to having a fourth. I needed to pick up my pace to hang with them and my legs seemed to second my decision by stepping up to the task.

Over the next few miles of rollers we sometimes rode two by two on the short climbs. I was curious about the club and they shared their knowledge.

The course profile showed a fast descent from mile 75 to 80 with the course progressing to more or less flat for the finish. I offered that my legs were pretty much 'burnt slap up' and that they needn't worry about my sprinting potential. They laughed. Instead of a sprint, they suggested that, at most, I might observe 'only a slight increase in speed' at the finish.

The descent down Sheep Canyon was glorious. These riders knew the road, signaled where there might be gravel washed onto the pavement, and ushered me down in style. At times I was nearly spun out. As the grade lessened at about mile 80 we caught two riders. Caught, as in, closed the gap on. And caught, as in, offered some fast wheels to follow. Which they did.

Over the next four miles I watched as business started to get interesting. After making our final turn the pace started to quicken. The Vicious Cycles folks realized they had one rider who posed no threat. That was me. And two riders who did. I was not jockeying for position but the two other newcomers were. I was working pretty hard to hang on and did see 27 mph on my Garmin. My finish was uneventful. I followed the wheel in front of me while a few in the front scrambled for better position.

As soon as I stepped off the bike I realized my legs were about ready to seize. I walked a couple shaky laps around the parking lot until the muscles were eventually convinced the pedalling was done.

When it was all over I learned I finished 35th out of 200 at an average speed of 17.2 m.p.h. I was quite pleased with this performance.

As I loaded my bike I noticed that the chain was still on the 14 tooth cog from the fast finish. That made me smile. I also inspected the rear tire. It had lost about half of its pressure but the sealant had done its job well enough to keep me rolling to the finish.

Well after the event was over I realized how I might have ridden a better race. My three GFE lessons are listed below.

Packing enough food and water was a great plan. It allowed me to choose to stop at the aid station or not.

Working hard down Baird Springs was not wise. The chase to connect cost some matches. And the pace of the group we caught was a bit fast for me.

Failing to schedule a lower paced 'rest' segment before the aid station was also a poor choice. Looking back it seems reasonable that groups recently rested from the aid station would be running a 'little hot' compared to me given my lack of rest.

Next on my Fondo calendar is the Gran Fondo Leavenworth in May. It features a few more miles of length and one more mile of elevation gain. Giddy Up!

Link to short video of 2017 GFE racer's view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnDB6qQtqUc

Link to a five minute 'quad copter' video of this year's GFE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxIwiFf_YIs

Sunday, August 28, 2016

2016_08_21 Puyallup Cyclopaths' "Rainiering" Ride - the long version

Author:  Mike Hassur

It usually doesn’t take me this long to create a blog post after a ride – particularly one as noteworthy as last Sunday’s “Rainiering” Ride.  This last week was a busy one (I worked three days even though I am “allegedly” retired, and I began to catch up on some of the work around our house that I have been ignoring all summer).  Anyway, I’ve finally gotten around to writing about one of the most memorable rides that I have ever done.

Sometime last winter, we were talking about “Everesting” (i.e. doing a ride in which you did an amount of climbing that equaled the height of Mt. Everest – 29,029’).  No one (except maybe Leon) was giving it any serious consideration, but it was interesting just to talk about it.  Craig Hill, then, suggested that we should consider doing something more realistic and that had a more local flavor to it.  We would call it “Rainiering”, and the ride would involve 14,411’ of climbing.  Rob Critchfield added to the idea by suggesting that we include every climb on Mt. Rainier in the ride (i.e. Sunrise, Cayuse Pass north and south, Chinook Pass, Backbone Ridge east and west, and both sides of the climb to Paradise).

These ideas always sound exciting and eminently “doable” in the winter.  As summer approached and the reality of what we had proposed started to sink in, I started to give the logistics of the ride some serious thought.  For example, the afternoon traffic could be a significant problem in two places on the ride: the climb to Sunrise and the climb to Paradise from the west side (Nisqually Entrance).  In addition, we found out in the Spring of 2016 that there was significant road work being done between Longmire and Paradise which could impact our ride.  It was with these thoughts in mind that we settled on the following route:

·         Leg #1 (~56 miles):  Grove of the Patriarchs' Parking Lot --> up Cayuse Pass (south side) --> up Chinook Pass --> down Chinook Pass and  Cayuse Pass (north side) to Sunrise turnoff --> up Sunrise and back down --> up Cayuse Pass (north side) --> down Cayuse Pass (south side) and back to our vehicles

·         Leg #2 (~40 miles):  Grove of the Patriarchs' Parking Lot --> up Backbone Ridge (east side) --> down Backbone Ridge (west side) --> up to Reflection Lake and on up to Paradise --> retrace our steps back to the vehicles

·         Leg #3 (~35 miles):  Grove of the Patriarchs' Parking Lot --> up White Pass (all the way or at least until we get to 14,411') --> retrace our path back to the vehicles 

The ideas being that we would get Sunrise out of the way early (when there might be less traffic) and that we would substitute White Pass for the climb from the Nisqually Entrance to Paradise due to the road conditions.  Also, on the last leg of the ride, it was pretty much downhill back to the vehicles if someone “bonked” which would not be the case on the climb up the west side to Paradise.

We had a fairly small group for this ride: Dwaine Trummert, Les Becker, Adam Abrams, and me.  Other people were interested in going, but fate had taken its toll on our group (Leon injured knee, John Winter building a new house, Rob Critchfield recuperating from gall bladder surgery, Aaron Gerry doing an Ironman Triathlon the same weekend as the ride, Connor Collins away at college, Scott Larsen just had a new addition to the family, Mario Rivas had other obligations, Craig Hill (the guy who came up with this idea) recuperating from a bike crash, etc.).  I had no qualms about the guys that we had going on this ride, but I was a little worried none-the-less.  I had already “Rainiered” once at The Climb, but I was alone and able to do it on my own terms.  This time would be different.  I would be part of a group (which I usually love) and that worried me in two ways:

1.       Pace:  these guys were really strong riders.  I didn’t want to hold them back; and, conversely, I didn’t want to have to go at a pace that would jeopardize my main goal which was to finish the ride.
2.       Rest stops: when I “Rainiered” on The Climb, I stopped for 5-10 minutes after every 2,000’ of climbing (about every 1 hour and 30 minutes) to rest and eat and drink.  It was very regimented, and it seemed to work well for me.  I was concerned that on this ride people may not want to stop on a regular basis to rest, etc.

Originally, the ride was scheduled for Saturday, August 20th.  As that date drew near, it was clear that the weather was going to be a factor on that day:  a high of 95 degrees was predicted.  The following day, Sunday; on the other hand, had a predicted high of about 80 degrees.  The ride was going to be tough enough without having to deal with extreme heat.  I emailed the guys who were going on the ride a few days beforehand and asked if they might be willing to do the ride on Sunday rather than Saturday.  To my great relief, everyone agreed that Sunday would be just fine – whew!!



Sunday came, everyone arrived on time, and we were heading out of the Grove of the Patriarchs’ parking lot at 6:40 AM.  The morning was cool (we were all wearing long sleeves), and the ride up the south side of Cayuse Pass went smoothly.  We made a decision at the top of Cayuse to head to the climb to Sunrise, do it, and then do Chinook Pass on our way back.  The idea being to minimize our exposure to traffic on the climb to Sunrise. 

We headed down the north side of Cayuse Pass, took the turnoff to the Sunrise Climb, made our way past the Ranger Station, and found – THAT WE HAD NOT BEATEN THE TRAFFIC!!  Every trailhead parking lot was full, and a ton of vehicles were heading up to Sunrise – drat!!  We made our way up to the Sunrise Visitor Center – Les and Adam visiting their way up the climb ahead, and Dwaine and I enjoying a more leisurely pace behind them.  I would tell Dwaine to go ahead at his own pace and that I would just proceed at my pace.  His reply was always “I find this pace more efficient and more to my liking”.  Here is my interpretation of Dwaine’s response:  he was being a good guy and a putting someone else’s feelings (mine) ahead of his own.  He could have easily ridden at a faster pace with Les and Adam, but he didn’t want to leave me behind.  He did this on every climb of the day, and he has done it other times as well (last year’s Vancouver to Whistler race and last year’s Hurricane Ridge climb - just to name a couple).  It was very thoughtful of Dwaine, and our conversations certainly made the many climbs of this day more enjoyable for me.





Mike and Adam:  Sunrise Lookout Point

After making our way up the Sunrise Climb, it was a fun descent (Adam’s first time down Sunrise).  We stopped when we returned to Hwy 410.  I had stashed some extra bottles of PowerAde for myself and Adam at this junction (Dwaine and Les had stashed extra bottles a little further up the road).  I drank plenty of PowerAde, ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and we were off.




We made our way up the north side of Cayuse Pass and on up to Chinook Pass.  It went pretty smoothly, but I was still worried about issues #1 and #2 above.  From there, it was downhill all the way back to our vehicles where we got rid of our long sleeved shirts, refilled our water bottles, ate, drank, and rested a bit.




Next up were the climbs to Backbone Ridge and on up to Paradise.  We made our way up the east side of Backbone Ridge smoothly and uneventfully.  It was during this climb that I made a decision.  Instead of heading up White Pass at the end of our ride, I would go back up Backbone Ridge.  My reasoning was that White Pass would be in full sun later in the afternoon and prone to significant traffic, while the east side of Backbone Ridge would be in the shade and have less traffic as less people would be heading INTO the park at that time of the day.

After Backbone Ridge, we headed up through Stevens’ Canyon to Reflection Lake.  This climb can be very hot and grueling at midday.  In our case (since we had chosen a cooler day), it was warm but not bad.  Once again, Les and Adam were ahead with Dwaine and me trailing.  We regrouped at Reflection Lake.  Our stop there was a nice one which gave me a chance to drink plenty and to devour another peanut butter and honey sandwich.


From there, we headed up toward Paradise.  About 2-3 miles below Paradise, the traffic from the west side entrance (Nisqually) merges with the traffic from the east side entrance (Grove of the Patriarchs).  It was from this point on up to Paradise that we realized that our decision not to include the climb from the western (Nisqually) entrance was a good one.  THERE WAS A LOT OF TRAFFIC, AND MOST OF IT WAS FROM THE NISQUALLY ENTRANCE!!. 

Les, Mike, and Adam at Paradise
We made it to Paradise where we stopped, refilled water bottles, ate, and rested for a few minutes.  From there, it was all downhill to the base of the west side of Backbone Ridge.  We had tailwinds on the descent through Steven’s Canyon.  This descent is fast enough as it is.  The tail winds made it a little unnerving – at least for me.  After arriving at the western base of Backbone Ridge, we made our way up uneventfully and down the east side to our vehicles where we restocked.  It was at this juncture that I told Les and Adam that I was going back up Backbone Ridge rather than heading up White Pass (I had already discussed this with Dwaine earlier as we headed toward Paradise).  To my surprise, Les and Adam were fine with heading back up Backbone Ridge. 

We headed back up the east side of Backbone Ridge; and, as I had hoped, it was shady and cool and had minimal traffic.  We reached the top and headed down the west side.  When we reached the bottom of the descent, we turned around and headed back up.  When we - once again - reached the top of Backbone Ridge, we were still approximately 500’ short of our goal; so we decided to descend the west side of Backbone Ridge one more time and to head back up.  

This time, when we got back up to Backbone Ridge, we had achieved our goal of 14,411’ of climbing.  We celebrated by taking pictures of our Garmin computers which showed the mileage and elevation gain to that point and taking pictures of our group.



14,411 feet of climbing...



From there it was all downhill to our vehicles.  At ride’s end, we had covered 130 miles and done just under 14,500 feet of climbing!! 





This was an epic ride.  I really appreciated the opportunity to do it and the guys with whom I did it.  Les, Dwaine, and Adam could have done this ride faster if they wanted.  They chose not to so that we could all finish together.  I would like to thank them for a great ride and a wonderful memory.

To see all the photos associated with this ride, click on the following link:  https://goo.gl/photos/S7iP6u6FKkEMfjx36

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dwaine's Picture Post for Rainiering on Rainier

Climbing Cayuse from the North during Ramrod is a memorable experience. Most of the Cyclopaths have this section of pavement burnt into their long term memory. But climbing it before eight a.m. on an August morning made the climb seem almost foreign. The temperature was cool. Our legs did not yet ache. The shadows stretched out long before us as the sun rose over the horizon. Cayuse really did show us a friendly face on this first leg of our trip.
In another attempt at cleverness, the author intended to memorialize each ascent with a photo showing the numerical order of the climb. As we reached the top of Cayuse the group sans photographer showed the camera a single digit indicating that Cayuse, the first of many, had been summited. The original intent was a photo at the top of each climb or pass. Not till later did we realize that the counting, not the climbing, would provide the bigger challenge.
Sunrise is always a treat. We saw more traffic than usual but this climb was as beautiful as ever. The sign welcoming us to the Sunrise visitor's center (elevation 6400 feet) was a great prop for our second summit photo. We just needed to be careful not to step in the mud.
This was Adam's first bicycle trip up and down the road to Sunrise. After we completed the descent and returned to the flatter part of the road we had a great talk about the steep and bendy parts of the descent. Les and I talked about memorizing the various twists and turns. Everyone agreed the descent is pretty darn fun whether it was a riders first or twenty-first time down.

The short trip from the top of Cayuse to the top of Chinook is probably the author's favorite bit or pavement. The roadway and rock walls have an old-timey feel to them.  The cars are generally moving pretty slow. There is a decent shoulder. The views are stunning. And the wooden footbridge over the road at the summit reminds riders of a mountain top finish in a grand tour. It made sense for another group photo showing our numerical progress but there was some disagreement. Apparently Les and Mike have a long running fued over which climbs count as passes and which climbs don't. Adam and I learned pretty quickly not to bring up the subject.



Right after photo number four was taken the author felt a change in shoe fit. Apparently as I remounted a screw let go on my right shoe and the tensioning buckle, still attached to the plastic strap, became free to move about on each pedal stroke. To my luck and amazement the buckle tensioner mechanism held the screw captive. At our next stop I over tensioned the remaining straps, removed the buckle and screw, deposited them in my pocket, and made a mental note to make a repair when we returned to the cars. I hoped this easily fixed buckle detachment filled our quota of mechanical issues for the day.

At some point we talked about how often and how long to stop for rest. The group did not always agree. Until we reached the two thirds point of our day. Adam took in the beauty of Reflection Lake. Les took some photos. The author laid flat and nearly napped on the warm rock wall. Mike had a mini picnic. He was wise enough to bring something more than just energy bars. We were a little envious as he enjoyed his peanut butter and honey sandwich.


Les smiles as he shows us proof that we reached our 'Rainiering' goal of 14,410 feet. Well, if we were content with the 1956 U.S. Geological Survey height. We weren't. The rest of the group was aiming for the new official GPS derived height of 14,411 feet.

The Cyclopaths 2016 'Rainiering' ride climbing came to an end at the top of backbone ridge. This worked out well as it was an easy descent back to the cars and a pretty good place for a celebratory photograph. A stick was jammed against a steel bicycle to become a tripod and we smiled as the camera's self timer did it's thing. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. This photo is worth over 14k feet.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dwaine's Picture Post for Haller Pass Recon

This mission of this ride was to make sure that the Haller Pass route was still suitable for Cyclopath endorsement. During this scouting ride navigation played a role in our ride. Although we never met the technical definition of lost, we did have some directional confusion. The good news is that our senses of direction seemed to know when another stop to study the map was called for.

We took a short detour off our planned route to explore a narrow road that followed the top of a ridge. (Author note: I need to thank Mike for humoring me on this detour. The road was steep and challenging and not appropriate for a group ride. But I was curious to get a first person view of where it went.) As the climbing slackened a bit we came around a corner and were greeted by a puppy! And a few people camping. And then by this spectacular view. These folks might have chosen the most scenic campsite I have ever seen. We took a few photos but, as friendly as he was, the puppy would not join Mike for a photo in front of the mountain.


No caption needed.



Haller pass photo. Well, almost. Haller pass was once open enough for a decent view of the mountain. But trees now obscure the view for the most part. So we followed a narrow road out to a natural viewpoint. We visited with a few locals, turned down there generous offer of beer, and figured out how to use my Cannondale as a tripod for this photo.
The majority of the miles after Haller Pass were descending on the more heavily traveled portion of Forest Service road 75. With the additional vehicular traffic comes the stutter bumps. We stopped a few times just to let our forearms rest. At this rest point the view isn't as awe inspiring as Mount Rainier yet the author still felt moved enough to strike this dramatic pose.

After about five hours and 35 miles we returned to Mike's van. We had a fantastic day scouting out this Haller Pass route. We also had a terrific time chatting and taking in the spectacular scenery. After riding this route I can understand why Mike has elevated it to the Cyclopath calendar.


TO SEE ALL OF THE PHOTOS ASSOCIATED WITH THIS SCENIC TRIP, CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINK:  Haller Pass Cyclocross_Gravel Road Ride


Friday, August 5, 2016

How to finish Ramrod in the top ten percent -- by Dwaine


(or first in the 'fenderbike' class)


When Les, Scott, and I started the 2016 Ramrod we were not planning for record setting times. We wanted to ride together but had few other details planned for the ride. By the end of the day we had all finished in respectable time. Those finish times made me start to wonder what we did better or faster than the other 700 riders. Those ideas and observations make up the theme of this blog post.

It goes without saying that rider fitness needs to be at Cyclopath level. Neither Conner climbing prowess nor Rob locomotive power are required. But a decent base level of fitness common in the Cyclopath group is obviously a requirement for a ride of this length and intensity. All riders in the Scott-Les-Dwaine trio met this requirement.


The 'Trio' ride past the first food stop and right on out of Eatonville. We didn't see many groups for a while after this point and wisely rode at a moderate pace. This was the chattiest part of the ride.


The first third of the ride, from Enumclaw to Ashford, needs to be about moderation. We found pacelines as often as reasonable to moderate our energy usage. We ignored the fastest groups to save energy. And when no strangers were present to put their noses into the wind we simply slowed a bit to save energy.

A lot of time can be saved in the food and water stops. Even more time can be saved by not stopping. As a group we rode right on past the Eatonville stop and set our sights on the Ashford stop at about 60 miles. Before we arrived I warned the other Cyclopaths that I would be making my stops quite short. I like to fill my pockets with food and then eat while I soft pedal up the road. I probably spent just three minutes off the bike at the Ashford stop and spent considerably less at each of my remaining stops.

The moderate pace for the first sixty miles is to save energy. And that energy is properly used over the next 50 miles. A decent climbing effort is necessary to separate the finishers from the top ten percent finishers. This year the first major climb inside the park was taken at a steady and respectable pace. Respectable enough that all three Cyclopaths were questioning if this pace might be just a little too hot. Respectable enough that the pleasant chit-chat that took place over the first 60 miles all but evaporated.

Les was riding Dwaine's wheel at this part of the ride. Yet he still found out how to position Dwaine out of the photo. The silent assassin works in mysterious ways.



The Box Canyon food stop is pivotal for a top ten percent finish. Adequate calories needs to be in the rider's pockets when departing from Box Canyon to get all the way back to the start/finish line in Enumclaw. This caloric preparation will pay dividends in a paragraph or two.


Is Scott smiling? Doesn't he know climbing is supposed to be hard?


The climb up Cayuse often defines a rider's experience of Ramrod. There is no easy route. This is the part of the ride where Cyclopath level fitness is required. A ride into the top ten percent requires another decent effort against this pitch at a point when the rider is about 100 miles into his day. I wish I could tell you that I felt all kittens and sweet cream for this year's Cayuse climb. But it wasn't so. I pushed at a tough pace that I knew I could sustain for an hour. My stomach was churning. One quad wanted to cramp a mile from the top. Cuss words snuck out of my mouth. And I just kept the pedals turning.

The single biggest time savings might happen at the 'Deli Stop'. There are three scenarios.

1. Stop for food and drink - This is the slowest option and a rider hoping for a top finish probably won't consider it.
2. Don't stop for food or drink - This obviously saves a fair amount of time. But guess what? This is the part of the course where the headwind kicks up. If a rider has a bunch of friends who don't stop this plan is golden. If a rider is solo he should prepare for the headwind hurt hammer.
3. Play the group - If the rider has food from Box Canyon and water bottles full from the top of Cayuse he can play the game. Already in a group that won't stop? Great! Ride on by the Deli Stop. Otherwise, make the turn into the food stop ready to abort on the spot.

This year I 'played the group'. I had enough food. I had enough water. And there were no wheels to follow so I turned into the Deli Stop. I was prepared to abort the stop and follow any riders I saw exitting the stop. I parked my bike and saw no groups departing so I used the Sanican as quick as possible. Once back outside I saw no riders departing so I grabbed a Coke. Another rider departure check and then another food item. It didn't take long to see a group of three mounting up and I hustled over to my bike and started pedalling.

It was going to be beautiful. I had a mouthful of chips, an extra slice of bread in one pocket, and a cold Coke in another. And I was just 150 yards behind a group of riders as we re-entered Highway 410. I was proud of my mental acuity in putting this little plan into action. I got out of the saddle to close the gap and 'Bang!' The crank wouldn't turn.  WTF?  An arm warmer had fallen out of my pocket and into my cogset locking my chain in the process. I was still coasting at over 20 mph. But I couldn't pedal. The group of three was starting to shrink on the horizon. I wish I could tell you that I was a strong enough rider to stop to remove the arm warmer and then close the gap. I knew better than to even try.

I didn't know it yet but the Karma gods would soon even out this episode of bad luck.

While I waited I had no choice but fight the hammer. My neck and shoulder, already sore, started going into spasm as I tried to stay low. The headwinds were warm. By the time I drank my cold Coke it was tepid. My legs were turning the pedals but my road speed wasn't very impressive. I was crumbling.

After about ten miles a gift fell from heaven. I was caught by a man and woman who were going at what turned out to be the perfect pace. For the first five miles all I could do was hang on. But riding protected allowed me to recover a bit. These two riders rode like two synchronized swimmers. Their speeds were steady. They communicated beautifully. Rider lead changes were performed with precision. They let me ride in their shadow and also kept an eye on me. Eventually I felt recovered enough to request permission to take a pull. They agreed. I doubt my skill matched theirs but I did my best to execute a smooth and powerful pull with the emphasis on smooth.

At the finish I was finally able to chat with Dotsie and Scott. It turns out they ride Ramrod together every year, take group riding safety seriously, and don't often let strangers in. But in my case they were either impressed by the jersey, dazzled by the fenders, or just needed a break. And they approved of my group riding skills. Their praise felt good.

Author at the finish.  'Fenderbike' virtual trophy secured. (My shoulder hurt so bad I couldn't raise my arms any higher)

Being welcomed at the finish by Mark was also a treat. I heard the cowbell and was then surprised to see who was ringing it. After a short wait it was nice to welcome my fellow Cyclopaths to the finish. I was so proud of the group I treated them to ice cream.

At the end of the day I was a bit surprised at how quickly I finished. My elapsed time was about nine hours and fifteen minutes. This is my best time and I didn't feel like I was riding at ten tenths the entire day. In retrospect I may have ridden in a way that leveraged my strengths (climbing and eating while pedaling) and hid my weakness (speed on the flats). Either way the ride has made me rethink what it takes to get around the mountain.
























Tuesday, August 2, 2016

RAMROD 2016 (Les Becker's Account)

Author:  Les Becker



The start line this year was moved to Thunder Mountain Middle School where there was no parking for the day or for overnight. So I was pleased that my niece, Jerrinne, allowed Dwaine and I to park his travel trailer (thanks Dwaine for use of your trailer) at their house which is on 6 acres located 4 flat miles from the start. We enjoyed visiting with them Wednesday evening and seeing all their goats, chickens and ducks. In the darkness of 4:00am the next morning I realized it would have been much easier and smarter to mix my Skratch hydration fluid and set the pressure in my tires the evening before. My bike headlight was helpful getting us to the start line and meet up with Scott Wager uneventfully. However, we couldn’t find Kurt and Mario and at 5:15, our agreed upon start time, it would have been easier for me to hold back a team of wild horses than to hold back Dwaine and Scott so off we went. We were feeling great, following a long line of other riders and chatting excitedly. I only vaguely remember Dwaine muttering something about the cue sheet showing a turn only one block from the start. About a mile later, small groups ahead of us began stopping and saying to their buddies things like “Hey, do you know where you are going?” Then when the group turned east, when I knew we needed to go west, I knew we were off course, but not lost, because Dwaine determined how to wind our way through some residential neighborhoods to get us back on track. A great start!

We had only spotty pacelines until turning onto Orville Rd, where as usual, riders coalesced into a long line. We agreed that the pace was a bit faster than we wanted since we were aware of the need to conserve energy. Past Kapowsin and Ohop Lakes we did roughly 23-26 mph. Per our plans, we rode past the first rest stop in Eatonville and were largely on our own until after Elbe. Then we joined a group, but this time it was too slow. Soon others joined us and we split into appropriate groups and arrived at the second rest stop just before the park entrance and did stop for BR break and food/water. Dwaine likes to grab food for his pockets and get back on the bike quickly. He said he’d soft pedal until we caught up. Shortly after, Scott & I left with food in stomachs and pockets. After awhile, I asked Scott what he thought Dwaine meant by “soft pedal.” But we did eventually catch up. In the stretch around Longmire I found myself in a spot of difficulty. This irritated me because this location had been a problem for me on other RAMRODs. I thought this section would go better for me because I felt that I hadn’t burned too much energy prior and felt good coming out of the rest stop. So I did what any reasonable rider would do. I got irrational and decided to push at any cost to stay with the group of I think 4-6 riders, and if I blow up, the heck with it! Fortunately I was able to hang on, and in fact led the group from well below the bridge over the Nisqually all the way to Inspiration Point, but not w/out a cost. Boy was I tired. Scott had chosen a more reasonable pace coming up the hill, so Dwaine and I proceeded down the long beautiful descent to the Box Canyon rest stop; with me in tow. I was surprised to see only about 10 other riders as we pulled in. By skipping the first rest stop and then doing a decent pace up Paradise, we were clearly towards the front. Again Dwaine’s stop was quick and he left. The next time I saw him was at Thunder Mountain Middle School. Just as he left, I heard “Hey, Les!” and saw Scott pulling in. He had made very good time himself.

Scott and I left soon after and rode together chatting up Backbone Ridge (one of Mike’s so-called “passes”; sorry… inside joke!). Well at least Scott was chatting; I was quite breathless to talk much. Sorry Scott, wasn’t trying to ignore you. Climbing Cayuse in 91 deg heat was particularly difficult for me this year. Or do I just forget how much I’ve suffered on previous RAMRODs? Maybe it’s always like this. Lots of existential thoughts and blurred meaning-of-life thoughts swirl through my head on that harsh segment. Again, Scott took a more reasonable pace. The hill threw some leg cramps at me just as I approached the top, just to make sure I didn’t take anything for granted… I didn’t. At RAMROD Deli I didn’t feel well but drank a Coke and ate fruit. I knew my stomach couldn’t handle a sandwich. Without going into detail, my quick trip to the BR showed that I was seriously dehydrated. As I was finishing the Coke I looked up and to my horror, I saw about 25 riders rolling out and I didn’t have time to toss my garbage and get over to join them. I just stood there looking at empty bike racks. This was not a good situation as I pondered the long slog through predictable headwinds and heat (which reached 94 deg) and not feeling well already.

So I got on and pedaled slowly, the only speed I had. In about 10 minutes Andrew, a young man who was a gift from heaven (actually from Portland) came up and passed me without a word. He had a strong, steady pace so I jumped on his wheel anticipating not being able to go that fast. I guess the Coke worked and my legs also began to work. I concentrated on drinking Gatorade continuously from there on and energy food when possible. Eventually he let me take some pulls also and I was encouraged that I once again could deliver reasonable power for 3-4 minutes at a time between his 10-12 minute pulls. This went smoothly all the way to the Mud Mountain turnoff which seemed to come surprisingly quickly. We hadn’t passed anyone and no one passed us. I thanked Andrew for pulling me in, but he was quick to acknowledge that I helped keep him going, so I was pleased to have contributed. It was fun to experience how even a two person paceline is more efficient than a lone rider.

About a half mile from the finish, on a quiet country road, there was a sudden loud clanging cowbell being rung by none other than Mark Delrosario! He shouted encouragement which made me feel quite good from there to the finish line. Thanks Mark! Total time was 9 hr and 35 min; not the fasted I’ve done, but sure felt successful. Dwaine, who had arrived 20 minutes prior, greeted me and showed me where to find the pop sickles and soon Scott arrived. So all was good, well until I grabbed my bike to ride the 4 miles back to Jerrinne’s house and found a flat rear tire. It was the happiest flat tire I’ve ever had since it would have been so much more discouraging if it had happened out on the course. We got back to Dwaine’s trailer, said good-bye to the goats, and headed home.


Monday, August 1, 2016

RAMROD 2016 (Kurt Maute's Account)

Author:  Kurt Maute

On the eve of RAMROD 2016, I called Les Becker to see if there was a plan for the Puyallup Cyclopaths team for the next morning.  He indicated that most of the team was planning to arrive at Thunder Mountain Middle School by 5:00 am and be off by 5:15 am.  I searched Google Maps for the location and sent it to my phone so I would have it ready the next morning.  I awoke by 4:00 am on the next day and set off by 4:30 thinking I would be able to arrive by the 5:00 am time.  Apparently Google Maps got confused (or more likely I did) and ended up asking a police officer for the final directions.  I arrived at the school entrance just after 5:00 and they told me to head to the Shriner’s  Lodge down the road for parking.  That lot was full so I ended up parking in a nearby neighborhood.  Getting off the a bad start, I put on my kit and filled my pockets and arrived back to pick my packet up at about 5:15.  Having received the package I now needed to commute back to my car to drop off parts of the packet and the complimentary RAMROD 2016 tee shirt. 

I finally departed the start line at 5:40 am and was on my way alone but feeling pretty good as I didn’t have to try to catch anyone.  The first 35 miles or so went by quickly and soon I was in Eatonville to dine on some really bad scones (one rider commented they must have been left over from last year J).  Having learned a lesson from last year, I didn’t stay too long and was soon on my way to Ashford.  Along the way I thought of the many times I have ridden parts of this ride with my fellow Cyclopaths which was comforting. I hooked up with a larger groups that accepted me which helped to pass the time reading the back of fellow cyclist jerseys to glean a bit about their experiences...  I was passed by No. 174 who told me we are similar in age and I thought, how would he know that.. but quickly recalled that your number is based on your age and I was No. 161 which makes me 59 this month.  Anyway I began to look at various riders numbers thinking I’m part of the top 20% age-wise which provided a bit of solace as most riders were younger than me so they should be passing me…

I arrived at the Ashford stop and took in fluids, fruit and an energy bar.  I hit the restroom and refilled my bottles and was off some 12 – 15 minutes later…  Once you enter the park there was a timing bar where they also check to make sure you have a visible flasher on you or your bike.  I got to thinking that I had forgotten my RFID tag which I usually attach to my helmet but in my shuffle to and from my car that morning I had forgotten to attach it so I would have to rely on my Garmin which I charged the day before so it would hopefully last the remainder of the ride (which it did).  The Ashford entrance to the park is by far my favorite with old growth forest and a gentle winding climb under shade and among slow moving cars.  Riding up Paradise seemed longer than I remember and toward the end I was starting to get the dreaded Hot Foot…  Having finally summited, I stopped to rest a bit before heading down through Steven's Canyon… one of my favorite ride sections with 35+ mph no problem and no passing cars to worry about.  I stopped briefly at the top of Backbone Ridge or whatever that summit is called to get more water and rest before descending on another of my favorites…down the ridge with newly paved road to enjoy. Heading up Cayuse Pass I had arrived at this part of the ride 1.5 hours earlier than last year which paid big dividends with more shade and lower temperatures – still hot mind you but more doable and not as much Hot Foot... 

I arrived at the Crystal Mt. stop where deli sandwiches are available and was quickly greeted by a friend from Boeing named Russell Tom who had volunteered along with his wife who prepared my meal.  It was great seeing him and meeting his lovely wife.  After I had pretty much finished, Mario greeted me and we had a chance to catch up as he was apparently just a few minutes ahead of me.  He indicated that he was riding with some very fit riders and would be headed out soon.  We said our goodbyes and, as I later departed, there was Mario and his friend that would contribute significantly to the 37 mile ride back to Enumclaw.  It was great to hook up with them and the ride when by quickly going 23 – 28 mph most of the way.  About half way thru Mario got dropped and I proceeded riding with his friend most of the way back until the final 8 miles where I too decided the pace was too much…  I finished the final 5 miles and began cramping likely from lack of fluids as I was hesitant to sip for fear of losing my ride so to speak…  I finished the ride at about 4:20 pm which worked out to total time of about 10 hours and 40 minutes (ride time was about 9:20 hours or thereabouts).  Total time was an hour and a half off of last years’ time – a pretty good effort.  As I was coordinating with the organizers to advise them I had forgotten to attach my RFID, Mario came across the line just shortly after my finish…  The ride home was rather unpleasant as traffic was at a standstill and various parts of my body began to cramp including my fingers and toes….  At home I would later take in much needed fluids (2x32 oz. Gatorade) and potassium supplements. 

All-in-all I great ride and another lesson to take in more fluids that last stretch…