Author: Kurt Maute’
This was my first RAMROD and it certainly lived up to its billing. I almost didn’t do the ride as I was not sure I would be in the right condition if I had another international business trip or heart issues. Even with no trips planned and a healthy heart, it was still tough to get my head into the idea of doing the ride as it was the most challenging ride I had ever undertaken in my life. Previously, doing STP in a day (204 mi.) was my personal record, but some of my fellow Cyclopaths did STP in a day as a warm up – crazy? yes.
Mark Delros helped to push me over the edge explaining that I had actually ridden all the segments before, just not in one fell-swoop..! Just before the ride Mark and I had agreed that we would endeavor to ride together with Mario agreeing to help lead us on the first leg of our journey. We headed out just as sun began to rise at 0-dark-thirty something – actually around along with most of my fellow Cyclopaths. It was nice to see several familiar trademark orange Puyallup Cyclopaths jerseys even though it was difficult to ID cohorts given the darkness. The pace was pretty easy going as Mario lead us from Enumclaw > South Prairie > The Climb > Eatonville where the 1st snack stop was – around 32 miles into the ride. We were averaging low 20s speed-wise I would guess.
Several of my fellow Cyclopaths skipped the Eatonville stop, we know who you are..! We however made a leisurely stop and met up with Dr. Nick who would join our team as Mario headed out ahead of us. The 3 of us stayed pretty much together reaching the Ashford (Wildwood) food stop at the 55 mile mark. About 5 miles from the stop I noticed that I had left Dr. Nick and Mark behind as I was feeling pretty good at this point and had been hydrating and taking in some calories, often one of my shortcomings along with staying within abilities. When Mark arrived he complained a bit about his stomach and the onset of early cramping. The 3 of us posed for picture at Wildwood and took in some needed calories and a bathroom break. This is the point where we begin the ascent up to Inspiration Point. The grade starts out easy enough at 2-4% for the first 10 miles and we all enjoyed the forested areas as we pasted thru the Nasqually entrance to Mt. Rainer National Park. At this point pace-lines really don’t help as speeds slow so the three of us split up with me feeling pretty good for the 1st 15 miles or so of climbing. At about the 70 mile mark, I began to suffer from the dreaded “hot foot” where my pace slowed considerably as the grade reached about 6%+/-. I made it up the last 3 miles in a bit of agony but pushed on to the Inspiration Point water stop at the 73+ mile mark.
Having reached the top of the 1st major pass, I was anxious to enjoy the long decent into Backbone Ridge, which by now was getting pretty familiar, having just done this segment a few week prior. After taking some Ibuprofento ease my foot pain and slathering on some sunscreen, I filled my water bottles and sought some shade while I awaited my fellow Cyclopaths arrivals. This stop ended up taking longer than I had planned and I began to get anxious to do the decent but wanted my fellow Cyclopaths along with me to share the great experience. When Mark arrived, I could see pain on his face as the cramping really took its toll on this difficult accent. As we made the 8 mile decent, we would enjoy the stunning views and tourists who posed by Louise Lake with Mt. Rainer in the background. You really haven’t lived until you take in this view in my opinion – one of the many Great Northwest highlights.
Mark and I would stick closely together thru the summit of Backbone Ridge then on to Stevens Canyon Road where the second major climb up Cayuse would begin. The climb was pretty easy for the 1st 10 or so miles, but when we took the left at SR-123, and I passed a group of slower riders, I noticed that Mark was struggling a bit to keep pace. It was clear the cramping continued to get to him as he eventually disappeared in my helmet mirror . This was a bit of a reflection point for me as it became obvious that we would not be riding together the remainder of the journey but knew if the shoe were on the other foot, I would be okay with this. Hot Foot would again plague me at about the 100 mile mark and I decided to stop momentarily to rest and cool my feet. A fellow old timer and I (me #188 and he my senior at #68?) decided to walk a few blocks up to a small waterfall where we would both dunk our feet in the cool water. We both found immediate relief and got to know each other a bit, him (Dan) having ridden RAMROD several times before. For those not aware, RAMROD officials assign numbers based on age with the oldest (82 I think) proudly wearing the #1. This system would explain why many older women riders displayed no numbers on their backs…J. I recall seeing #11 during the Cayuse climb and was pretty humbled as I think I was the one being passed. I calculated that I was in about the upper 23% age-wise at almost 58 while Nick (#18), our eldest statesman, was in the upper 2.25%. The water stop at mile 103.2 was a welcome site at about 4 miles from the summit being packed with fellow riders of all demographics.