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:

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.


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…

Friday, July 29, 2016

"Rainiering" at The Climb

Author:  Mike Hassur

Thursday was supposed to be hot (~90 degrees).  I had decided to get in a long ride doing hill repeats on the last 2 kilometers of The Climb.  In the back of my mind, I thought that I might attempt to “Rainier” (i.e. climb 14, 411 feet – the height of Mt. Rainier – in one ride), but that was questionable given the high temperatures that had been forecast.  I figured that I would just get to The Climb early, start going up and down, and see what happened.  My main goal was simply to get in a long ride.  My wife, Kathy, and I were planning to go to Portland for the weekend; and this gave me the opportunity to get in some mileage before the weekend.

I parked my van at the base of The Climb’s final 2K where it would be available to me at the finish of each hill repeat. By 5:45 AM, I was on my bike and starting my ride.  Since I was riding alone, I figured that I would just ride a nice, easy pace and try to enjoy myself and my surroundings as much as possible.  I used the first couple of repeats to measure exactly how many feet I would be gaining with each ascent – 344 feet per my Garmin.  At that rate, I figured I needed to do approximately 42 hill repeats if I wanted to get in 14, 411 feet of climbing.  Soon, I had a plan.  Six repeats would give me just over 2000 feet of climbing and would take me roughly one hour and twenty minutes.  I would break my ride up into parts (each part/interval comprised of six repeats).  At the top of each climb segment, I would take a swig from my water bottle.  At the end of each interval (six repeats); I would give myself 5-10 minutes to stop at my van, refill my water bottle, and drink and eat while resting at the back of the van where I had stored all of my supplies.

I tried to simply concentrate on where I was on each set of six repeats (for example, repeat #1 of six, repeat #2 of six… until I finished repeat #6 and stopped at the van).  Also, I kept track in my head of how may intervals of six I had completed knowing that, if I could manage seven of them, I would be just over my goal of 14,411 feet.  Somewhere in the 4-5 hour range, I started to feel sleepy and sort of lethargic.  When I finished that particular interval of six repeats, I made sure to take in some Clif Shot “goo” that had caffeine in it as well as swigging quite a bit of a bottle that I had mixed up using Perpetuem powder which, again, had some caffeine in it.  That seemed to remedy my grogginess in fairly short order.

I had “mini-goals” along the way.  First, I think that the most elevation that I have ever done on The Climb in one ride is 7,000 feet; so I felt a sense of accomplishment when I met that goal sometime around hour five.  After that, I kept telling myself that any additional climbing was sort of a bonus which would add to my personal best.  As I passed through 8,000 and 9,000 feet; I was starting to think about 10,000 feet of climbing.  At the beginning of the ride, I would have been very pleased to get 10,000 feet in.    I reached (and passed) the 10,000 foot mark during my fifth interval.  By this time, I knew that I was probably going to make it to my “Rainiering” goal; because the heat didn’t seem to be bothering me the way that I thought it would and because my legs still felt good.  I think that things were going well, because I wasn’t pushing it on the climbs – just smooth and easyand because upper 2K of The Climb has shade on one side of the road or the other throughout most of the day.

My sixth interval took me up past 12,000 feet (with about 400 feet to spare).  After that sixth interval, I was sitting at my van getting ready for the last interval.  After a short break, I mounted my bike to find my Garmin cycling computer saying “Low Battery”.  This was very disappointing!!  I knew that it would not last for the entirety of those last six repeats.  How could I verify that I had “Rainiered”?  This was a real bummer after all of this work.  Then, the solution dawned on me – when my Garmin shut down, I would simply start the Strava App on my phone and use it to record the last part of my journey.  It would mean that I would have to make two posts to Strava to verify that I had achieved my goal; but, at least, the evidence would be there.  All right!!!  Those last six repeats seemed pretty easy.  I did one extra "half-lap" up the hill at the end just to make sure that I would have enough elevation to get to 14,411 (because of the Garmin dying, I wasn't exactly sure where I was with respect to elevation gain).  The ride ended up being around 110 miles long with just under 14,600 feet of climbing - perfect!!

This ride taught me some things and reinforced other notions:
1.       It taught me that, when my goal is to make it to the end of a grueling ride, speed is not very important – in fact, it is probably counter-productive.  The fact that I was riding by myself meant that I was never pushing to keep up with faster riders and wasting energy.  I was shocked by how good I felt for this entire ride (and the next morning), and I attribute that to staying with a comfortable pace for the entirety of the ride.  Also, I think that this was why the 90 degree heat was not more of a problem.
2.       It taught me that, when you are really regimented about eating and drinking on a long ride, it makes a big difference in how smoothly your motor continues to work deep into the ride.  I suspect that the short breaks were helpful as well.  I should know this by now, but I don’t always practice what I preach.
3.       It reminded me that The Climb is an awesome place to ride a bike:
a.       It is a beautiful 5 mile climb with very little traffic – that, alone, makes it special to me.
b.      As the trees have grown up, there is more shade for those hot days.
c.       The final 2K is the perfect place to attempt something like “Rainiering”:
                                                               i.      It is very efficient (i.e. there are not flat places where you can waste energy – you are either climbing or descending).  For example, to “Rainier” using the entire Climb; you would have to ride over 140 miles.  Using the final 2K requires about 110 miles.
                                                             ii.      The grade is mostly between 4 and 6 percent (with a couple of short pitches of 7%) which is perfect.  I was not using particularly low gearing (compact front: 50 x 34) and 11-25 rear.  Going uphill, I used the 19 and 21 cogs probably 80% of the time and the 23 cog the other 20% of the time.  I never used my 25 cog, and I never felt like I was struggling or wasting energy.
                                                            iii.      I’ve already mentioned the shade, but it is particularly pronounced on this part of The Climb and was much appreciated.

Well, there you have it.  What was meant to be a long training ride turned into one my most memorable rides. 

I'm hoping that we can post some RAMROD related thoughts soon from the guys that did it (Les, Dwaine, Mario, Kurt, and Scott).

Can’t wait for our next ride!!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Dwaine's Picture Post for Windy Ridge

Every year Mike schedules one or two official 'Cyclocross' style rides. These rides include routes with some or all dirt roads. Although not billed as a 'Cyclocross' ride this year's 'Windy Ridge' ride included some off roading. Mike did some research regarding a road washout on NF26 and we were prepared to walk  around the washout.  We were all surprised by just how far off the road we hiked to connect the paved bits. Some of us went full 'Cyclocross' including hoisting bikes onto shoulders.
The group, happy to have completed the scrambling portion of the bike ride, took a break where the road breaks out of the trees and reveals a 180 degree view.  Although Mt Saint Helens was not visible Lanny took a moment to take in the view while the author fussed with his camera.

The author was not the only photographer on duty this day. Many of us brought out our cameras at this point. Some approached the edge to capture the rolling green hills on the far side of the valley. Some took a step back to capture the foreground as well as the distant hillsides. And Les photographed a bicycle decoration built atop a NF26 highway marker.
Mike is our leader. On the seven mile climb to Windy Ridge he decided that the Cyclopaths should close the gap up to a lone rider. One by one the other Cyclopaths would not or could not match Mike's pace. By the time Mike caught the lone rider he had littered the road behind him with over worked climbers. Despite the hard climbing Mike quickly changed gears to photographer and continued documenting our ride. Thanks Mike.

The return portion of the Windy Ridge ride included 16 miles of NF99 goodness. Most of this road is twisty, often cut out of the side of the hill, and provided sweeping views to the South. But the goodness did extend to FR25. The years and weather have not been kind to the FR25 paved road surface. As we returned the twenty or so miles on this road we were confronted with mixed sun and shade on the road surface. This mix of light levels hid the many pavement irregularities. In addition to lumpy pavement at least one section of pavement wasn't pavement. In this gravel section Leon found a hidden hole with enough force to rotate his bars in the stem. The group stopped just long enough to make a quick repair and a series of poor tasting jokes.

This photo shows pavement, cycle shoes, and dirty shins. Those bits can be ignored. What cannot be ignored nor denied is an obvious trend in Cyclopath wear. No fewer than six brightly colored socks were on display for this ride. Although the author's flaming pink socks neither match the orange hue nor reflect as much glow, the movement towards 'visible' socks is clearly afoot. My daughter is immensely proud of the Cyclopath's footwise personal expression.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

2016_07_02 Puyallup Cyclopaths: White Pass, Backbone Ridge (east side), Paradise, Backbone Ridge (west side), Cayuse Pass, and Chinook Pass (Mike's Version)

Author:  Michael Hassur

Okay, I know.  During this ride, I made a pitch for other members of our group to do the blog post for this ride.  “We need other perspectives beside just mine when describing our rides” – I said.  Well, this ride was just too memorable for me not to ramble on about it.  In my humble opinion, it turned out to be one of the most epic rides that we have ever had.  White Pass, both sides of Backbone Ridge, Paradise, Cayuse Pass, and Chinook Pass – that’s the equivalent of doing five passes in one ride  by my calculations (though my friend, Les Becker, may differ with me a little on that assertion).  The ride ended up covering approximately 110 miles and around 11,600 feet of elevation gain!  I simply did not see this “epic-ness” coming.

This ride was not even in the “starting lineup” for this season’s rides.  It was a “substitute”.  Road closures and weather had caused us to postpone a ride or two already this year and to cancel our traditional Skate Creek Loop Ride.  In its place, we did a ride on Saturday, June 25th a portion of which took us up the Sunrise Climb twice.  This weekend (Saturday, July 2) our schedule had us doing the Triple Sunrise Climb (i.e. doing the Sunrise Climb three times when we had just done it twice the week before).  We decided that, as much as we love Sunrise and that climb, five times in a week might be overdoing it.  So, on Wednesday of last week, we decided to substitute something different for the Triple Sunrise Ride.  We decided that it might be interesting to do White Pass, Backbone Ridge (east side), Paradise, Backbone Ridge (west side), and Cayuse Pass. 

I sent out a ride announcement to everyone and got a “tepid” response at best.  Les and Dwaine were in.  Adam Abrams was a maybe.  Everyone else was going to be out of town or had other plans.  Even Leon, who generally makes it to most of our rides, was doubtful because of a long ride that he was doing on Thursday of that week.

I was a little disappointed that we didn’t have a bigger group, but I really enjoy riding with Les and Dwaine; so I figured that we would have a good ride together.  Then, I heard back from Adam – he was in.  Next, I heard from Mark – he and Mario were coming!!  Our little group had just doubled in size.

Our goal was to meet at the Grove of the Patriarchs Parking Lot which is located just inside the east entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park.  We hoped to be on our bikes by 6:30 AM.  The idea was that we might minimize our exposure to traffic by starting early.  The bad part of that idea was that it required us to get up really early as it is about a 90 minute drive from Puyallup and even longer for Les and Dwaine who live in University Place.  I had packed my bike and gear in the van the night before.  I got up around 3:40 AM and showered, had breakfast, etc. and was pulling out of my driveway by 4:25 AM.  The drive took me exactly 90 minutes.  I pulled into the parking lot at Grove of the Patriarchs at 5:55 AM.  Great, I had plenty of time to visit the restroom and to get my gear out and ready.

Aaron Gerry arrives unexpectedly - awesome!!

About 10 minutes later, Aaron Gerry pulled into the parking lot!!  I was surprised to see him and thrilled at the prospect of adding another good rider to our group.  Shortly thereafter, Adam arrived as did Les and Dwaine.  Just before 6:30 AM, Mark and Mario pulled in.  Mark has been battling some back issues which have limited his ability to get out and ride as much as he would like.  He informed me that he was just going to ride on his own up to Paradise and back.  Mario, on the other hand, intended to do the entire ride with us.

We left the parking lot heading for White Pass pretty much on time.  We headed south on Hwy 123 to its junction with Hwy 12, turned left onto Hwy 12, and began the ascent toward White Pass.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that we were climbing pretty rapidly.  In fact, given the number of climbs that we planned on doing in this ride; I was concerned that we were being a little too “generous” with our energy expenditure this early in the ride.  A feeling that was confirmed when drops of sweat starting falling from my forehead as we neared the top – uh oh, that almost never happens on the first climb of the day.  We took some photos at the top and headed back down the way that we had come.  The descent off of White Pass is fast and the road is smooth (mostly), so it didn’t take us long to get back to Hwy 123 where we turned right and headed back to our vehicles to restock on food and liquids and to shed some clothing.

The next leg of our ride was to take us up over Backbone Ridge and on up to Paradise.  Once again, the pace up the east side of Backbone Ridge was brisk enough that it was a bit of a strain, and I wasn’t feeling that strong.  I suspect that the effort of going up White Pass faster than expected was beginning to take its toll on me.  I decided at that point that I was going to conserve energy on the next part of this climb which would take us through Stevens Canyon and on up to the Paradise Visitor Center.

The Stevens Canyon portion of the climb is usually one of my favorites.  With sheer rock faces on your right and a cliff that falls away into Stevens Canyon on your left, it is pretty awesome.  It is, also, a long and tough climb up to Reflection Lake – especially if you are not feeling very peppy which I wasn’t.  Pretty soon, I was alone.  All of the other guys were ascending faster than me.  It was a little demoralizing.  Here we were less than half way into our ride, and my “motor” was sputtering – WTH!!  I’d been in this position before, so I decided to do what had worked for me in the past.  Stop, ingest a Goo Pack, and take a couple of good drinks of liquid.  After a brief stop, I was on my way.  Soon, I saw Mario headed my way.  He was coming back down to check on me- thanks, Mario.  I got into a rhythm; and, by the time that we arrived at Reflection Lake, I was beginning to recover.

I wondered how the remainder of the climb up to Paradise would feel, but it was fine.  I love Paradise – even when it is crowded on a 4th of July weekend (like on this Saturday).  Everything is beautiful up there: Mt. Rainier, the Tatoosh Mountain Range, the lodge, the visitor center, etc.  We stopped, took photos, ate and drank, topped off our water bottles and headed down.  The descent from Paradise to Reflection Lake is about a 2-3 mile descent.  It was a cloudy day, so no photos of Mt. Rainier reflecting in Reflection Lake.

View of Tatoosh Mountain Range from Paradise...

From there, it was the long, twisting descent on the roads above Stevens Canyon and down the shoulder of Stevens Canyon to Box Canyon.  We were going fast, the road was rough, and it was slightly disconcerting at times – but always fun!!

Next up, we climbed the west side of Backbone Ridge, took a couple of photos at the summit, and flew down the east side back to our cars.  Adam and Aaron had to leave after this second leg of the ride due to family obligations.  We had done around 80 miles and 7800 feet of climbing by this point of the ride, so they didn’t get cheated.

After bidding Adam and Aaron goodbye; it was left to Les, Dwaine, Mario, and me to finish the third leg of this ride – Cayuse Pass.  We refilled our water bottles, stocked up on food, and took off.  Cayuse Pass is about a 10 mile climb with a pretty consistent 6-7% grade.  It is challenging anytime, and we were fatigued from the first two legs of our ride.  We didn’t set any speed records, but we managed to make it to the top of Cayuse at a nice, steady pace which found us all reaching the top together. 

Les and Mike at Cayuse Pass - about to head on up to Chinook Pass...

Dwaine, Mike, and Mario at Cayuse Pass...

About a mile before we reached the top of Cayuse Pass, Dwaine complicated things (he’s good at that).  He said “when we get to the top of Cayuse Pass, I’m going to ride on up to the top of Chinook Pass as well”.  A very brief discussion followed (talking was sort of an effort at this point), and it was determined that we ALL were heading to the top of Chinook Pass.  Thankfully, the grade from Cayuse Pass up to Chinook Pass isn’t very steep; and we were able to maintain our pace up Chinook without too much trouble.

Now, all that was left for us to do was to negotiate the 15 mile or so descent from the top of Chinook Pass back to our cars.  I know that sounds pretty simple and it is; but, when you are a little “fried” mentally, going 35-40 mph down a mountain pass can be risky if you don’t make a real effort to be attentive.  We talked about this before starting our descent, and we made it back to our cars just fine – though the road vibrations on the way down made me feel as though I’d been put through a “blender” by the time we finished.

Mike - all done... in more ways than one...

That's an "epic ride" smile from Les...

Epic ride with a wonderful group of guys.  Can’t wait for our next ride!!

To see all the photos associated with this ride, click on the following link: