Author: Nick Iverson
RAMROD 2014 A.K.A. “CHIPROD”
Having ridden up to Paradise several times, a trip up 410 down Cayuse and back in April, riding the Triple Bypass and 5 century rides plus the “STP” in one day (Sumner to Portland), and a ride up Forest Rd 26 at Mt. St. Helens, I was looking forward to the RAMROD. I consider myself an addict of this ride, as this was the 16th “Ride Around Mount Rainier One Day” this year. The day before the ride was a scramble, as I had a full day doctoring in the clinic, then dashed out to Enumclaw to get my packet. There is always SOMETHING that needs to be done in order to be able to get to the start finish line around 5 AM. I went through the list: bike in car, helmet in car, gloves in car, bike bottles in car, riding glasses, Zone bars in jersey, bike shoes, number and NSA electronic strip on helmet, number on bike, computer on bike, video camera on bike, headlight on bike…. Check, check, check. Putting out food for morning. Duh. Setting the alarm, check.
Morning of July 31, I woke up BEFORE the alarm on my Eye Fone, however the time was set one hour late! I slept in my bike shorts, so I was able to yank my awesome Cyclopath jersey over my head, guzzle down a glass of chocolate milk and a Zone bar, race to the car and head for Enumclaw. I parked there in my secret parking place, and rode three blocks to the start line and was off at 05:15.
The ride to Eatonville was rather uneventful except for the CHIP SEAL coming into town on WA 161. I made a quick stop to buy some real food at the Shell station and was gone. Up and over the cutoff and CHIP SEAL DESCENT to Mtn. Highway. Rode well in a pace line with a bunch of riders younger than my kids until I spotted #1. I dropped back to talk to him, and he preferred to ride alone. I then chose to chase down the pace line. Mistake. Red zone. I was dropped and at 9mph pulled into the store in Ashford. I ate, felt much better, but at the RAMROD was told that I had to ride through the check point or get pulled over. (I assume by the NSA). I saw Mark Delrosario, and told him he would catch me down the road, as I had stopped only 3 miles before this stop.
|Skate Creek View: RAMROD 2014|
On to Skating Creek Death Road…. There is perhaps one of the most scenic views of Mt. Rainier (the Mountain that I wanted to see up close), so I stopped to take a picture or two, took other riders pictures, found a secluded place over the hill to get rid of the Coca Cola that I consumed in Ashford, then headed toward Packwood on the road that I traveled alone on the Cyclopath Hypothermia Ride. With bright sun, and my marginal vision, the Death Descent was downright terrifying. I finally picked a “couple” of riders, who passed me, but not at supersonic speed, and assumed the female rider would have more sense than the guys, and followed them like a dog on a leash. When they were on the wrong side of the road, I could see the sink holes, curb sized splits in the road and a bit of gravel that they were avoiding. Eventually the road becomes smooth and there are a few miles of relief coming into Packwood. There was Mark D, wondering how he passed me without seeing me, undoubtedly when I was offloading Coca Cola.
Next is the thrill of riding with the semis, Winnebagos, and giant pick up trucks pulling boats and trailers, with blasts of soot from their diesel engines. After crossing Highway 12, I almost wished we were going to ride up White Pass, there is another check point with flies and food, and narrow Blue boxes that substitute for the bushes at the side of the road. Next is the Cayuse climb, and I was still not 100% from my earlier red zone, but Mark kept encouraging me on up the hill. After a half bonked ride to 410, there was the rapid descent to Crystal Mt Blvd. That stretch of road was IT. A down the middle of the road, ears pinned back, relaxing full speed ride with NOBODY PASSING!!! However, just at the entrance to the Park…. SOME MORE CHIP SEAL!!! ARGGGHH.
The food stop was great, but the trip back to Enumclaw was not fun. Mark and I were eventually able to get our two person pace line organized, and took turns pulling. For some reason, my right arm kept getting tight, and we made a short stop at Greenwater at Wapiti Woolies for a smoothie for Mark, and Mocha for me.
Except for questions about my bike being crooked (it is now in the hospital getting new handlebars), we checked it out, and descended Mud Mt. Road. Mark was fantastic at helping to get that last run down. Normally, I ride on aerobars on the stretch from the Deli to Enumclaw, but I removed them before the ride, as I did not think I would be comfortable with them on chip seal. I doubt I would have used them. It was Mark whose motto “No Cyclopath left behind” that got me back.
Author: Mark Del Rosario
My 2014 RAMROD Experience
The last month and a half leading up to Ramrod was not an ideal training period (low miles, lack of climbing, incomplete club rides not by choice mind you). So I forced myself to suffer a bit thru back to back 70+ mile Saturday and Sunday rides the weekend before. They were not intended for physical training but more for mental toughness and confidence. No amount of last minute riding would make a difference in my fitness level. On the Skate Creek Loop Sunday ride (2nd attempt this year), I felt no shame in not keeping up with five of our strongest cyclists (Conor, David, Mike, Leon and Brent). At least I could enjoy the Paradise climb, Backbone Ridge and the Steven's Canyon descent that were being omitted from this year's route. The more I heard of changes to the route and road conditions I started to wonder how enjoyable this year's Ramrod would be.
It was a good thing I took Wednesday off. After doing an hour spin on the trainer, I prepped my bike for the big ride only to find cracks on the rear wheel where the rim, nipples and spokes meet. Two options, ride my original heavy wheels, which I did use on my maiden Ramrod two years ago, or see if anyone carries the Shimano wheels I have been eyeing. Luckily the Performance Bike in Tukwila carried the Ultegra 6800 wheels. Three hours later I invested in new wheels. Many props to them for taking care of me. It is not ideal to ride with a new configuration the day of an event but safety was the overriding factor. In the long run I can say they will be a good value purchase.
Pre-sunrise Thursday morning Mario and I rolled thru the starting gate under near perfect weather conditions. We maintained a steady pace and hitched on to a larger group at South Prairie using the descent of Pioneer Way to bridge the gap. I settled in amongst the front riders and I could tell Mario was itching to go faster. He even went to the front before the left turn to Orville road to drive up the pace. Considering this area as home territory I was ashamed that the drivers of a black Prius and the trailing truck failed to yield as we all signaled a left turn. Possible car-cyclist disaster avoided, the large group proceeded together uneventful from that point on to the climb up to Eatonville. We were cruising along with an 18+ mph average. Mario might not be thankful that I insisted on holding back the pace in the beginning but I am sure it helped him to finish strong. It was surprising when one cyclist thanked me for ferrying the group to the rest stop. If I had a choice I would cut back on the 30 mile slog of stretches in the beginning and at the end of the route.
Out of the rest stop, I told Mario to go on and not to wait. It took me a while to loosen up and find a groove in the rolling terrain. As I turned left from the Alder Lake cut off, a big group, Cycling Tuesdays, merged into the side of the road where I was at. Next thing I know they were barking orders that I need to take the lead or drop back. Pardon me? What happened to a courteous hello, nice day to ride or how are you doing? I happened to be on the road and your group converged into my space. I don't know if it is etiquette but I feel it is the faster group's responsibility to pass on the left instead of commandeering the entire side of the road everyone has a right to be on. I watched as they did the same to other people. Be forewarned wannabe race team Cycling Tuesdays the next time we cross paths you will have to take my spot on the road because I won't be as willing to yield. I was not impressed with their group riding because it was a mob hogging the road from cyclist and driver alike. Nor did they have a pace line rotation they so claimed. It was painful following with all the wasted energy of yo-yoing because they couldn't hold a steady pace. A few miles out of Elbe I saw the group envelope Mario. Having enough of this madness I decided to ride the remaining miles solo to the Ashford rest stop.
Apparently we passed Dr. Nick as he stopped at a store in Ashford. Saw him ride thru the rest stop. Mario took off ahead of me up Skate Creek. That would be the last time I saw him the rest of the ride. I started to feel better on the ascent and it was nice to crest the climb and then go on the long descent which became technical because of the road conditions. There were no bugs harassing me like the Sunday before. Maybe I was going faster this time. Somehow managed to pass Dr. Nick without knowing it. I decided to wait for him to refuel at the Packwood water stop. Two Cyclopaths set off together on Highway 12. I went on to pick off the riders that had passed us. I waited at the next rest stop at the Highway 12-State Route 123 intersection. Dr Nick did not spend much time at the rest stop and he took off ahead of me up Cayuse Pass.
I took off solo, picked off groups of riders and then I stopped at the 4 mile mark to suck down a gel(which is my last resort food and because I don't like the taste. I wasn't bonking or tiring but intervening in advance of the steeper climbing ahead). I re-passed the same riders and then found a group I could settle in for a while. When they eventually tired and the stronger cyclists began to pull away I resumed my own head hunting. Eventually I came across Dr. Nick. I adjusted my pace to ride with him. The longer we were on the ascent and in the heat I felt stronger. It helped that I wasn't trying to redline myself. Since I am a Cyclopath I thought to myself I should feel at home in the mountains so this is worth enjoying every moment. Definitely have come a long way from my first Ramrod where I had to break up the Cayuse climb into four segments so I can survive the hump over it.
At the halfway water stop a lady gave me a high five over the extra climbing from my erratic zig zaging and circling. As an outside observer I would have thought this cyclist has gone mad wasting a lot of energy. Again Dr. Nick took off ahead from the stop and the cycle from the earlier half repeated itself. One guy complimented me on our club's jersey and asked if the cyclist behind was my grandpa or something. I said he was a teammate. He said he would have just waited at the top but I said I'd stay in front of him like a carrot to a rabbit. I was more than happy to be in the mountains with fellow cyclists (a teammate and other enthusiasts). For a change I was enjoying the freedom to go at a pace I could set for myself and take the experience all in. Exhaustion usually determines the pace for me but it wasn't having its way this time. We finished off Cayuse glad to reach the high point of the ride. As my reward I passed whomever was in sight during the fast descent. Boy I was looking forward to the sandwich and a coke at the Crystal Mountain rest stop. Real food is a nice break from our usual sugary snacks.
We embarked on 410 not looking forward to the newly chip sealed road. Why the state DOT wasted money to ruin an already safe road leaves me puzzled. A patch here or there would have sufficed. Turned out we did not need a pace line because we worked together to put the power down. We gained back 1.5 mph on our average ride speed on the fast return. A motorcyclist going by cheered 'way to go Cyclopaths.' I think it was Rick (Erik's friend). We were making such great time we stopped at Greenwater for a smoothie and an iced coffee. After Greenwater, the slight bends in the terrain and headwind can wear on you but I thought back to a happy time this spring when Leon, Andy and I rode out that way. I was determined to have a good close to the ride. This is in contrast to my first Ramrod which at this point my legs were hurting and my bum was sore riding the remaining 30 miles solo from Crystal Mountain to the finish.
A group of three passed us on the descent of Mud Mountain. Once at the base of the hill I used a steady pull to bridge us back to them. From there we hitched a ride for the last few miles to the finish line. Mario was there to greet us. I hoped he hadn't been waiting for an extremely long time. He did great averaging 16.8 mph on his maiden Ramrod. He is a strong cyclist and enjoys riding with other cyclists in challenging events like this. He was complaining about not talking to the gal racer from Fisher Plumbing whom he pulled from Forest Road 70 to the finish. Now if he wasn't so concerned about driving his average speed up he could have ridden with her as opposed pushing hard to the end. Don't worry I am working on making their acquaintance.
I finished my first Ramrod in 2012 in survival mode. I was nervous over what to expect and how I would fair on a ride that was 50 miles longer than my longest ride and an additional 2,500 feet of climb higher than I had ever ascended. Plus it was only my second season cycling. It is a boost in confidence having ridden the same roads Cyclopaths traverse on during our training or club rides. This Ramrod felt like having home field advantage in a big playoff game. I felt much better throughout the entire ride having never doubted finishing, never felt in the red and never worried about my time or pace. In summation, my 2014 Ramrod experience was about sharing the event with a friend, enjoying fellowship with cyclists and riding the journey around our beautiful Mt. Rainier.