Thursday, July 30, 2015

2015_07_30 RAMROD (John Winter's Account)

Author:  John Winter

It had been a long time since I managed to get into the Ramrod so I was looking forward to doing this ride again (At least I think I was).  I’ve been more consistent in my riding this year so I felt prepared but the weather forecast for a hot day left me a little intimidated.  I arrived at the Eatonville High School early so I could be on time to leave with the ‘second wave’ of Cyclopath riders at 5:30am.  As it turned out we all arrived a bit early so we were on the road by 5:20am.  There was a little chill in the air as we got on our way so I was glad I opted for long sleeves (for time being anyway).  We all rode in a smooth paceline with each rider sharing the lead.  The group began to get a little scattered, however, as we approached the intersection at Kopowsin and riders began to bunch up.  All of the sudden I heard something rubbing against my wheel and I came close to falling over before the rubbing suddenly stopped .  “Someone must have touched my back wheel”,  I thought to myself.  I took a look back and saw Mike a few yards back but he was still on his bike so  I assumed all was well.  It wasn’t until I reached the Ashford rest stop that I learned the bad news that Mike’s wheel was significantly damaged and he had to abandon the ride.  What a bad break for Mike!  At least he wasn’t injured and was able to make it home on his wobbly wheel.
After Kopowsin I got separated from our group so I decided to ride at a steady pace with some of the other pacelines until I reached Ashford. At that point I figured I would rejoin the rest of the Cyclopaths.  As the morning sun began to pierce through the trees I could feel the first heat of the day.  A harbinger of things to come.  I had plenty of fluids with me so I decided not to stop at the first aid station in Eatonville.  Shortly after leaving the city limits a friendly rider came up beside me.  It was Mario!  It was good to see a familiar face after riding alone for the last half hour.  We decided to ride together in the next paceline that came along and we continued a steady, but conservative, pace.
After passing through Elbe and Ashford we rolled into the first stop of the day.  Since I had been forcing down fluids all morning my first order of business was getting in line for the Port-a-pottie.  After grabbing more fluids, a cream cheese bagel, some fruit, and a couple of cookies I walked back to my bike and found Scott, Les and Conor over by the bike mechanic’s truck.  As it turned out Conor was having trouble with his rear wheel and it looked like the tire was not going to get him all the way through the course.  Darn!  Then I heard the news about Mike.  What a bad break for the both of them. We’d only made it to the first aid station and already two Cyclopath riders out of the ride due to mechanical issues.  Not a great day for the team.  As I left to continue the climb up to Paradise I hoped that luck would keep me from succumbing to a breakdown as well.
As I made my way up the climb to Paradise I was already beginning to sweat.  Geeze! It usually doesn’t get this warm until we reach the climb to Cayuse.   At that point I realized we were in for a scorcher.  Fortunately after the Nisqually bridge I was in the shade again and feeling pretty good, all things considered.  Towards the top I spotted another Cyclopath jersey.  Leon was looking strong and riding steady up the last stretch to the top.  We chatted briefly and I brought him up to speed on Conor’s misfortune.  I told him I was planning on stopping at Box Canyon aid station and would  meet up with him there.  As I crested the climb and pedaled past Refection Lake the descent back down into Stevens Canyon came as a welcome break from the first big climb.
As I rolled into the Box Canyon aid station I saw Tom Peterson.  He wasn’t too happy with how his ride was going but I said “hey, you can’t be doing too bad if you’ve gotten this far already!”  I don’t think I convinced him however.  He said that he just hadn’t been riding enough this season to give Ramrod a good go.  I wished him luck just the same and after downing another cream cheese bagel, a chocolate croissant, and a banana I made my way on to the climb up and over Backbone Ridge.  As I came down the descent toward the Steven’s Canyon entrance I noticed how hard my tires were as I rode over rough spots in the pavement.  I was worried that the hot pavement was heating up my tires and that I was going to have a blowout as I rounded one of the hairpin turns.  Turned out to be a bit of paranoia, however, as the rest of the ride down to the east entrance went without incident.     
I had hoped to get to the start of the climb up Cayuse before the sun really started beating down.  For the first section I was fortunate to be in and out of the shade for the most  part.  I kept a steady pace as I made my way up what is now a very familiar stretch of road.  After riding up this pass so many times one might come to think of it as an ‘old friend’,  but I knew that in these conditions Cayuse would be anything but friendly!   I developed a good rhythm as I made my way up, switching between sitting in the saddle and standing on my pedals.  Then I began to feel my right cleat begin to loosen.  Arghh!  This climb is tough enough with two cleats – I didn’t want to have to do it with one!  My luck held out, however,  and after laboring up around the two hairpins and through the tunnel , I finally reached the top!  No more climbing!  I refilled water bottles and then found someone with a phillips head screw driver so I could repair my cleat.  Got that fixed and headed into the final stretch.
As I made my way down from Cayuse Pass I noticed there weren’t a lot of riders on the road at this point.  I figured they must all be stuffing themselves at the deli stop.  I was dreading having to do the last stretch without anyone to draft behind and considered stopping for a sandwich myself.  However, when I reached the turn off for Crystal Mountain I noticed Mike resting under a tree.  What a welcome sight!  After fixing his wheel at home he decided to make the most of the day by riding out to meet us.  We rode together until Greenwater when Mike decided he needed a ‘pick me up’ at the general store.  He told me to ride on and that he would join me later in Enumclaw.  At this point I just wanted to be done so I continued on.   A bit later I managed to hop onto another paceline and rode with them for a mile or two.  That’s when it finally happened.   Two miles short of the Mud Mtn turnoff I hit a rock and got a pinch flat.  After fixing the flat I rode alone at my own steady pace to the finish line in just a bit over 9hrs.  Since I didn’t really have a time goal I was happy enough with that considering the heat and the flat tire.  I was greeted with ice cream, fruit, cookies,  potato chips and finally something to drink other than warm Gatorade!  A short time later Leon rode in strong and joined me and Mike to rest  under the shade of a tree.  Overall a good ride.  Unfortunately I had another commitment later in the day and had to leave so I didn’t get to spend time with the rest of the Cyclopaths.  I hope to have a chance to trade stories on the next Cyclopath ride!

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