Monday, August 28, 2017

2017_08_28 The High Pass Challenge with Adam Abrams

Author:  Adam Abrams

2017 was my second year of cycling and I decided to fully devote my spring and summer to trying out new disciplines of cycling. With that in mind I signed up for High Pass Challenge as a way to experience a competitive Gran Fondo. High Pass Challenge features an out and back course that starts in Packwood then climbs over independence pass before turning at the Windy Ridge Viewpoint. In total the ride climbs 7400 feet in 102 miles. The event is also timed and riders are awarded Gold, Silver and Bronze medals based on their arrival time at the Windy Ridge Viewpoint. My goal for the ride was to race it and put in the best effort I could.

The day started early as I left my house at 4:15 AM in hopes of getting to Packwood by 6:15 AM. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to get ready for the 7:00 AM start. The drive went a little too quickly and I got there at 5:40. With extra time and nothing to do I decided to pull out my lawn chair and watch the riders coming in. I quickly realized that there were some very good riders at the event. The majority of the riders were sporting their race kits and the guy parked next to me was a retired pro rider. Needless to say I felt a little out of my depth but I decided to stick with my original goals.

The ride started fast and I mean FAST! We were flying down Hwy 12 at speeds between 25-28 MPH. Unfortunately, I lined up too far back at the start and had some work to do to get back near the front. Luckily there were several others that made similar mistakes and I was able to ride their wheels back to the front without wasting too much energy.  By the time we turned onto Forest Service Road 25 I was positioned in the front 30 riders.  Holding my position was difficult as other riders were constantly looking to move up. It had the feeling of a race near the front. 

The ride exploded on the first climb of the day. It’s a 1.2 mile climb that averages 6% but starts gradients above 10%. Most of the riders attacked this climb like it was the only climb of the day. Not wanting to get dropped, I burnt my first match of the day and put down a 300+ watt effort for a 6 minute climb. Unfortunately, this left me in no mans land as the leading group of riders was a good 20 seconds in front of me and everyone else was scattered. When we got back to a flat section I tried to bridge up to the leading group but quickly realized that it would take too much to reach them.  I decided to hold my position and hope a chase group would form. To my luck about 5 minutes later a group of 8 riders came by and and I jumped on. This group worked together and we were able to rejoin the leaders after a few miles.

The group stayed together until we passed the Iron Creek Campground and started the 13 mile, 2800 foot climb to the top of Independence Pass. The other riders were more conservative on this climb and the group slowly separated as the stronger riders pulled away while others fell back. I decided to ride my own pace and target 250 watts for the climb. This strategy worked well and I was able to pass several riders in the second half of the climb. By the time I reached the top of the climb I was in a small group of riders and placed somewhere in the top 20. But unfortunately I still had 10 miles of rolling road before reaching Windy Ridge.

This last section of the climb didn’t go as well for me. I was getting tired, the day was getting HOT and I was out of water.  The mental and physical impact of running out of water was surprising. I found myself limiting my efforts and counting down the miles. Unfortunately this meant I had to watch several riders pull away and I got passed by a couple more. But to be honest it didn’t bother me that much as I was more focused on getting to the Windy Ridge Food Stop and some much needed water. In hindsight I really wish I would have taken an extra bottle in my jersey pocket. When the aid station came into view, I was ecstatic and rushed to the line. After parking my bike I filled my water bottle drank the whole thing before filling it up again. Feeling better I decided to check out the food before making my way over to the time check to see how I finished. I finished with a gold medal time of 2:49, 22nd overall and 9 minutes behind the first finishers. 

The ride back to Packwood was pretty uneventful. I was one of the first riders to leave and rode the 51 miles back by myself. Despite the 90+ degree temperatures I did my best to enjoy the ride. I only stopped twice on the way back. The first time to refill the bottles and the second to fix my only flat tire of the year. By the time I got back to Packwood I was hot and exhausted but also pleased with my performance. 

I learned a lot from the ride. First I need to start near the front when I want to ride near the front. I wasted too much energy chasing the leaders in the first 15 miles. Second, I need to take more water than I think I’m going to need. For me that means one bottle for every hour of riding. Most importantly I learned that I really enjoy this style of riding/racing and I can’t wait for my next opportunity to ride an event like the High Pass Challenge.

Picture Post for Rainiering 2017 -- by Dwaine

Oh Chinook Pass, how I love thee! Rainiering 2017 started overcast and evolved into warm sunshine. But the sunshine worked its way through the clouds in fits and starts. As we started up Chinook, nearly devoid of cars due to a road closure, the warm rays of sun warmed our skin and souls.

Climbing over fourteen thousand feet in one day requires over ten hours in the saddle, strong legs, and great camaraderie. I'd like to send a big 'thank you' to Scott and Mike for the great conversation and leadership. This image shows them part way up Cayuse pass relatively early in the day. Their smiles and spirits remained broad and bright all day long.

As we neared the summit of Chinook the clouds rolled back in to create a dramatic lighting effect. In this image the group is pedaling from bright sun back into shade and mist.

Sunrise was the second climb to go into the bag and the author requested a group photo. Just like last year the shot included the mountain and sign. Unlike last year no mud was present. In addition, the photo shows that while waiting for the old guys to get some rest Adam busied himself with a few reps of his cycling centric upper body exercises.

Three tough dudes. The final major ascent was to the Paradise Visitor Center. We did not tarry taking only enough time to fill water bottles and snap this sober shot. (Author's note - The normal riders, including the author, were feeling a bit haggard when this image was captured. Only Adam is wearing a smile. His fitness and lack of fatigue are clearly not typical.)

p.s. It's tough limiting myself to just five images. At least one Rainiering image landed on my Instagram feed:

Monday, August 7, 2017

2017 RAMROD - Adam Abram's Experience

Author:  Adam Abrams

I was excited when Leon asked me to ride RAMROD with him. It's a ride that I've know about for several years; but it's reputation for a long, hot, windy riding had me a little nervous.  So I was grateful to have Leon's experience guiding me through the ride.  My goals for the ride was were to simply to enjoy the experience, learn, and stay with Leon.

Based on my experience I've divided RAMROD into three sections. The first section runs from Enumclaw to the park entrance. This 60 mile section is comprised of mostly flats with a little bit of climbing. Leon's advice was to conserve energy and to look for a faster group to ride with and that's exactly what we did. Leon and I moved from group to group both of us testing our limits as faster groups came by. We used the faster groups to pick up some time and then pop off the back when the pace became too much. This approach worked great and left me feeling strong heading into the park.

The second section runs from the park entrance all the way to the top of Cayuse pass. I've nicknamed the section the "Cyclopath's Playground". This was my favorite part of the ride and where I felt the most at home. Leon's advice worked perfectly once again as we found a comfortable pace and slowly picked people off. There weren’t a lot of riders on the road, but we passed a few along the way and only got passed by three while on the climbs. The biggest surprise of the section was how well we climbed Cayuse pass. I've been told by many people how difficult the climb is during RAMROD, and I'd prepared myself for an hour of pain. To my surprise the climb went great. I don't know if it was the cooler weather or the pacing strategy, but I felt good all the way up.

The final section of the ride I decided to call "The long road to Enumclaw". It's funny how 110 mile and 9000’ of climbing can change your perspective on a ride. Going into the RAMROD I thought that 40+ miles of rolling downhill sounded like a fun way to end the ride. My opinion quickly changed after we hit our the first big gust of headwind. I soon found myself glued to my Garmin and wishing the miles would go by faster. This section was a lot harder than I expected. Despite the headwind, Leon and I worked together well; and about half way down, I saw a bike off in the distance. The hope that we might catch that rider was the motivation I needed to finish strong.  It took a while but we finally caught that rider as we turned onto Mud Mountain Road.  It was also on Mud Mountain Road that we saw the only other riders in this section. It was a group of four that went flying by. I put in one effort to try to catch them but quickly realized they were going faster than I wanted to and I happily let them go. After nine hours Leon and I ended the ride together feeling great about what we had just accomplished.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Official RAMROD 2017

Author - Les Becker

Scott Wagar and I made it into RAMROD off the wait list and were eager to ride this together. We did not intend to make this a hard driving personal best (or did I miss that in discussion?) But he likes to start early so we were at the start line in dawn light at 5:00 am. As we left Thunder Mountain Middle School, we were careful not to miss the first turn 1 block from the start as we did last year. It was 62 deg and felt cool in the overcast and sometimes misty air, almost wet. The pacelines as usual were large but seemed to be constantly splitting and joining into new groups. So when a gap appears few riders in front, we have 2 choices. Stay content in our group which will inevitably enlarge with added riders. Alternatively, you can jump out "burn some matches" and bridge the gap, which sometimes has gotten quite large before realizing what is happening. Scott consistently chose the latter. And I tried to help. This plus skipping the Eatonville rest stop put us at the photographer just out of Eatonville in #5 position. We didn't get much help to the Wildwood rest stop although Scott continued to ride strong and I had to drop back just before Ashford when a group joined us but going too fast for me. There were a total of 3 bikes hanging on the bike racks when we arrived and a few other riders walking their bikes around. Unfortunately my rear shifting was not working well so had to spend some time with the mechanic there. He made it work better and was adequate for the rest of the ride.

We saw Conor Collins at the Kautz Creek rest stop waiting for Leon and Adam. Just to shout greetings back & forth as we rode by was encouraging. But not enough to keep me in Scott's company as he rode very strong up above Longmire. Although I couldn't see him when I reached the high point at Inspiration Point, the photo sequence showed that I was the next rider after Scott. Looked like we were #'s 14 and 16 at that point. I sat up and ate some food anticipating help from behind for the long descent down Stevens Canyon, but it didn't come so I pedaled most of the way down. Turns out Scott descended alone also. He was at the Box Canyon rest stop when I arrived but was ready to leave. As I gathered some food, shed some clothes due to rising temperatures, and used the facilities, I assumed I wouldn't see Scott again. Backbone ridge required work but is not really a pass so I tried not to think about my tired legs.

Finally got to base of Cayuse with couple other nice riders. Cayuse never disappoints. Temp rose nearly to 80, sun beating down, legs begging me to stop and even cramping near the top. I did join Scott just before the top so we crested the pass together. Leon and Adam had passed me when I was at the Box Canyon rest stop but they stopped at the White River turnoff to refuel from Conor's car once more so Scott and I approached them from behind as we reached the RAMROD cafe cutoff and waved and shouted encouragement as they continued on. We stopped, Scott mainly for the sandwich and me mainly for cold Coke.

The expected headwind heading back on hiway 410 was as strong as I ever remembered. Was starting to bend the trees. We rode comfortably, waiting for the inevitable help from behind. Sure enough, two good riders came from behind and rode strong at a pace comfortable for Scott and I. A fifth also joined us. He was a friendly fellow we had met 2 and a half weeks previous at Chinook pass when our Cyclopath group met and chatted with his group from Seattle. So we were an efficient, well matched group; just what I want for the long ride back to Enumclaw. Then few miles out of Greenwater, drat!, flat tire. It's impressive when standing still, how fast a coordinated paceline rapidly disappears up the road. But as motion stopped, and quiet solitude enveloped me I felt good about the ride and what I had been a part of. Then quickly fixed the flat, headed out alone and soon there appeared a paceline of about six. As he rode by, the lead rider said "hook on if you like", and I'm thinking I certainly will!  This also was a wonderful group to ride with and we crossed the finish line together. I was pleased with my total ride time of 9 hr 42 minutes. Scott had finished about 13 minutes before, having won the mass sprint in his group that had enlarged to about 15 riders. Way to go Scott! According to the photos, looks like he finished #22 and me #39 (800 total riders). What a terrific feeling having finished another successful RAMROD. Ready to go again next year!

Scott on right and me on the left.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

2017_07_27 RAMROD (Leon and Adam)

Author:  Leon Matz

Ramrod 2017 Leon and Adam

Ramrod is always a big event for me each year.
After not getting in as a team, I was excited when Adam agreed to ride self supported!  My trip to Santa Barbara gave me a lot of endurance training but no LT climbing training like I would normally do preparing for Ramrod, so I was a little concerned about how it would go. Knowing that Adam is considerably stronger and faster than me, I let him know at any point he had my support to leave me and go!  He said he didn't plan to take off!  Needing to have someone to carry our needed food and bottles our own Conor Collins agreed to drive the route and meet us four times.
Adam picked me up at 4:25, and we headed to Enumclaw.  We parked, got ready, and left at 5:12.  As we road out of town, we were shocked at how many riders had already left and a significant number left even before the 5 start time.
We rode conservatively hoping for a big strong group to come by that we could jump on.
Descending into South Prairie, we saw Dr Nick who was wearing Cyclopath gear!
On my stem, I had marked out 10 mile increments with my times in 2011 and 2015. In 2011 Tom Peterson and I had a total time of 8:32 and the 9th and 10th persons to finish and alone on 2015 had a total time of 9:32 and 40th person in.  I was hoping to get a time under 9:00.
By the time we arrived at Lake Kapowsin, we were already 3 minutes behind the slowest year.  Without a big fast group to follow that trend may continue I thought. 
We joined some small groups but did not stress.
When we turned onto the highway to climb up to Eatonville, there were huge groups of people climbing up (rather slowly).  I took the opportunity and increased my effort and led Adam past probably 100 people.  Some of them were climbing really slow, and I wondered how they were ever going to complete the ride!
As we left town, the rain/mist greatly increased to the point that the tires were throwing up moisture behind us! 
Once we arrived at Alder Lake, I hoped we would find some groups; but it didn't happen. Just before Elbe, my wish came true!  Big group came whistling by!  Adam and I jumped on the train!  Wow was it going!  22-24 mph on a 1-2 % grade!  I was working real hard to just stay on board!  To make this kind of progress was fantastic but at what cost. After about 8 miles of this pace, we came to a set of railroad tracks and the gap to the next rider became too much.  I fell back in the group to one of the last 3 riders.  I hung on for another mile or so; but when the rider in front of me lost contact to the group, the ride was over for me on this train!
I paired up with another rider and worked our way towards Ashford (at a much slower speed).  Adam was clearly fast and strong enough to stay with that group.  I was resigned to the fact that I probably would not see him until the finish line.  As we approached Ashford, Adam was waiting there for me!  What a guy!!!
At the first food stop, almost everyone stopped; but we kept riding to Kautz Creek where Conor would be waiting!  While we were restocking two big groups went by but no sign of Les or Scott Wagar.  Conor said they went by about 10 minutes ago. 
Back on the bikes, we increased our effort a little but saw few people in front and none behind.  Last year, the park service paved the road from entry to Longmire; and this year they paved the uphill lane all the way to Stevens Canyon turnoff!  Wonderful!  The climb went smoothly with not one person passing us!  The climb finished earlier than I expected it to! 
We met Conor at Reflection Lake for a quick stop. Les and Scott were about 5 minutes ahead according to Conor!
The descent went quicklyl  We didn't go as fast as normal. since we had heard from several sources that park rangers were targeting cyclists going over the speed limit!  The climb up Backbone Ridge went well again no one passing us!  I had a few cramp problems in my right inside quad; but, otherwise, things were going well. 
When we arrived at the restrooms at Grove of the a Patriarchs, Scott had gone by and Les passed us as we were refueling.  I made sure I took some pickle juice and took with me a container of the HotShot ( a anti-cramping product). We took off as quickly as we could hoping we could catch up with both of them and ride as foursome into Enumclaw.
It took us awhile, but we finally caught Les.  Since Les planned to stop at the Deli, the plan to ride together would not work; so on Adam and I rode!  In years past, the Cayuse Pass climb was always really hot and hard!  The cooler temperatures and the smooth pace we were doing worked well.  A couple miles from the top we finally caught Scott who you could tell was in a lot of pain!  We exchanged pleasantries, and headed on and up!  I kept thinking where is everyone!  I finally asked one of the workers and was pleasantly surprised that only about 10-12 riders had gone through.  Wow the masses are behind us!
As we approached the top, I felt better than I ever had!  Our time up was 5 minutes slower than my 2011 time, but we were not suffering like I normally do.  I would have been fine with heading up to Chinook Pass.
At the Sunrise turnoff, Conor was waiting for our last stop!  We headed out to the bottom of the climb; but, strangely, my cramping problem reoccurred. Why on a descent???  I took the hot shot; and, finally, the problem went away for good.  Adam was very patient with my problems!
We went mile upon mile with no one in front or behind!  Adam led most of the time and escorted us along!  At one point, he shared he had to pee but didn't want me to have to wait. The solution - he road real fast ahead, stopped, and then caught back up to me!  Amazing speed after 125 miles. 
We finally reached the long straight away before the Mud Mountain Dam turn!  I always cherish that spot, because I know not much farther!  However, I then noticed a group coming up behind us!  It turned out to be a foursome!  Needless to say four are much stronger than 1 1/2. Me being the half and Adam 1 . Again. Adam could have easily joined them; but he stuck by this old guy!  We descended carefully as the road is really rutted!  The foursome that had passed us had a near accident and had stopped. We went by and headed to the finish line!  Tired, but not exhausted; we approached the last 1/2 mile only to be passed by 3 of the foursome! 
After the finish, I went back and asked how many were in.  Adam and I were 12 and 13 out of 800.  I was the only one over 50 in!  Total time was 9:01.30 and 17.mph!  
It was a strange Ramrod!  Super weather, so many people starting real early, smooth roads, few fast climbers.  Adam clearly could have finished 20-30 minutes faster but chose to escort this old guy around the course!  What a wonderful Cyclopath!
At 66, to be able to finish that high is a great feeling!  Thanks to Adam, Conor, and all of you that have rode with me this year.

Adam and Leon after RAMROD 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

2017_07_17 Leon's Final Thoughts on the Puyallup/Tacoma to Santa Barbara Ride

Author:  Leon Matz

Reflection on Puyallup to Santa Barbara bike ride

Here Mike and I are sitting on the Amtrak Coast Starlight train headed home! What an adventure it has been!  We have seen such beauty on this 16 day journey!  Many challenges have faced us and many blessings!
Wayne and Susie were great hosts for us over the last 24 hours! We had a chance to ride bikes with Wayne through town, have 3 wonderful meals, grab a good nights rest, watch stage 14 of the TDF, and go on a 2 mi hike around Wayne's house and canyon!
It felt good to not climb back on the bike today, although I think Mike and I could have easily have ridden a couple more days and gone to the Mexican border.
We are excited to get back home and see friends and family and return to more normal life!
Our journey covered 1342 miles, (84 mi a day), climbing a total of 68,243 ft, (4,265 per day, burned while riding 41,354 calories (2,584 per day) and averaged 14.1 mph for the trip.  NO FLATS!!  Yeah Gatorskins!  One minor bike fall.   The climbing is less than some had suggested but was plenty as far as I was concerned. The calories were far less than I thought!  I know I ate 2x that amount. I hope my appetite goes down after this trip or else I am going to gain a bunch of weight.  The mph is satisfying considering we were each carrying an extra 15-17 lbs of extra weight!
A major disappointment was the lack of favorable wind and the fact we did not get to do the Big Sur coast!  We believe we faced much more unfavorable winds than favorable, and we were told to expect the opposite.  The maps from Adventure Cycling were great except for measuring distance and giving an accurate representation of the elevation profiles.  They were both very poor and very inaccurate. Their mapping tool worked well after a lot of the maps were cleared and when you were on the route!  Once you were off the route either by design or accident it was very frustrating.   By and large, the roads were fairly good; but the difference in speed and enjoyment between smooth roads and bumpy roads became very apparent!
Mike was surprised at how much easier the trip was than he had expected, and I was surprised at how much I struggled on some of the climbs!
We both learned how important it was to not walk around a lot after we get to our hotel!  When we had a nap, it helped the next day to be easier!  Trying to get 8 + hours of sleep was critical !  We worked hard at eating well!  Stopped at 5 fruit stands and avoided deserts at most stops.
Day 2 for me and day 16 for Mike were the easiest days, and the hardest days were the hot days for me and the day through SF and the ride to Forrest Knolls.
The best accommodation was in Seaside and of course Wayne's house and the worst our warmshowers stay.  Most beautiful and most unique was probably the Lighthouse Hostel stay. 
Most special thing for both of us was seeing the Roosevelt Elk in the Redwoods and the seals sleeping on rocks on the shore!
I hope you have enjoyed reading the blogs! I have enjoyed writing them even though some days I struggled to get it written!

Take care and God bless you all!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

2017_07_16 Puyallup/Tacoma to Santa Barbara Trip (Leon Matz & Mike Smith) (Day 16)

Author:  Leon Matz

Day 16 of 16 Lompoc to Santa Barbara!!! We made it!!!

Early last fall I approached Mike Smith about the possibility of him being interested in riding The Pacific Coast Route.  He expressed some sincere interest into the possibility!  Since then, we have been reading, studying and talking to people about the route!  We planned all winter long!  We debated everything from the distance to travel each day to what we needed to bring along!  We talked weekly about all the particulars!  Neither of us have undertaken such an endeavor, so it was novice talking to novice!
Mike had some friends who had done the route and were a big source of information! 
We knew we wanted to not be gone too long from our wives and families, so we kept the number of days to do it down.
By spring, we had put together an itinerary for 15 days of riding 2 days here with Wayne and, then, the train trip back to Tacoma. The plan was for no rest days and 85-95 miles a day. It was hard to do; since in some areas, there were few if any places to stay!  From the beginning, Mike and I agreed that camping was not an option.  If we were going to do it in 15 days, motels wereas the only way to go!
In the spring we found out that there was a bridge washout in the Big Sur area and that the road would be closed for 6 months or more!  Then, major landslides occurred and clearly our route would need to change!  Mike worked with Adventure Cyclists Magazine and The California DOT to come up with a new option!  The new option was going to be much futher and hotter so we needed to add another day! 
In May, we decided that it was critical to make our accommodations reservations, because lots of towns were almost without rooms to stay!  We decided to start July 1 and go 16 straight days!  Some experienced Pacific Coast Route riders told us that we were stupid to not have a rest day or two! 
Today's ride from Lompoc to Santa Barbara was to be one of our easier days!  We wanted a short day so we would have plenty of time to ride and hang out with Wayne DuPont!  Wayne is one of the original Cyclopaths who then moved to SB.
Last night we looked at the maps and were disappointed that it looked like we had a real tough set of climbs shortly after leaving Lompoc.  It was to be a 900 foot climb that looked real steep!  Higher and steeper than any climb we have done in California!  So much for a short and easy ride!  In the description of this part of the route, riders were cautioned to allow plenty of extra time because of the hilly terrain!  We had hoped for a ride similar to the TDF ride into Paris!   We would have loved a ceremonial ride to finish things off!  I woke up a little early and was greeted with this view when I stepped outside!

Sunrise at Lompoc. 
We left at 6:50 and headed down the road.  We had a plan to meet Wayne at the 36 mile mark!  As it was a Sunday morning early, there was very little traffic! We rode next to each other and talked about everything from our tennis days in college to politics !  The time flowed by! 
The pitch on the climbs were not nearly what we expected!  Well, they must be coming up!  We kept talking and wondering when we're finally going to get to the tough climb!  After one of the sections, we saw a steep decent!  Our thoughts were oh no that means the next section is going to be real hard!  Then I saw a sign saying we were merging with hiway 101.  I remember seeing that on the map the joining of 101 was after the final climb!  How can that be the profile and the verbiage described it as a much tougher climb!
We were ahead of our schedule to meet Wayne, so we stopped and took more pictures!  Sadly, some of those pictures are of the fire and smoke that has hit the SB area.
We met up with Wayne, and he took us on a tour of Conor's college UCSB.  We toured part of downtown SB!   We saw hundreds of people out running and biking and enjoying the wonderful weather!  It was great to see so many people out!  We then found a bakery and had lunch.  After that we rode to Wayne's house!  It was great seeing and talking to Wayne!
Below are some pictures of the area!
Tomorrow I plan to write up the data of the trip and share some final thoughts and feelings!
Thanks to all of you who have read the blog, looked the pictures and or watched the relive of the ride!  Many of you have shared thoughts and feelings about what we were seeing and doing!  Great hearing from you!
One section of Wayne's garden!
Mission in SB