wickedwords: (biking)
I woke up early on Sunday, around 4:30, whiney and cranky from lack of rest. I grabbed my bagel, banana and a carton on chilled vanilla soy milk from the fridge, and crawled back into bed to quietly eat while Lar slept. I'd forgotten to bring a tea bag, so I didn't get my morning cup of tea, which bummed me out. From my oh, so vast, experience of two STP rides, getting up Sunday is a hugely emotional experience for me, involving a lot of near-tears and vows to never do this again. Still, I ate, I dressed, and I shrugged away discovering that the sign with my bike number had ripped away on the trip from Centralia, plus I was missing one of the safety pins for the registration number on my jersey. So I'd flap in the wind a little. There were worse things that could have happened, and my tiredness made me very zen, even when I wanted to just go back to bed.

We got going about a half hour late, joining the route right next to our motel. I was really missing my tea, and had a bit of a time getting going; Sandy and B dropped me early, and I saw little of them for most of the day. Occasionally, I'd catch up when they stopped for a rest, but on the whole, I was conversation-free for most of the ride.

Which was fine, as owing to the lack of tea and the low energy levels, I don't think I would have been much of a conversationalist anyway. I think by this time I was pretty much reduced to grunts.

Outside Chehalis, the route weaves around through pretty farm land as it approaches the Napavine hill. With the sun coming up, and the cool morning air, it's quiet, still and lovely, with only the huge stream of cyclists disturbing the landscape. People post signs on this stretch, congratulating friends and riders making the trek; Every single one of those signs made me smile, and within a half-hour, I was awake enough that my grumpiness had faded somewhat, and I felt like I might survive.

The sun was already high enough that the windbreaker came off right after I caught up to Sandy and B again. I had one of the shot bloks with caffeine, along with a fig newton, and then it was hill climbing time. The Napavine hill isn't as long as "The Hill" in Puyallup, but it's long enough to be its own lesser hell. At the top, though, is the banana bread lady, and while I didn't pick any up in my desire to hit the portapotties a mile down the road from her, it's still great to see her and her family out, handing out their fresh baked bread slices to riders that stop by.

I love the Napavine portapotties. There's no big rest stop there, hence no huge line, and I could just huge them for that. If they weren't, you know, blue, plastic, hot and stinky portapotties.

Coming out of Napavine is a real nice set of rollers, hills that are just the right spacing and grade that you can get up most of the next one from the down hill energy of the first. We flew through the next ten miles, and I remember thinking that this was what it must be like for people that actually cycle fast. The Winlock rest stop was right there well before I expected it.

In my mental plan, I had hoped not to have to stop at Winlock, but such was not the case; much more time got eaten away in the potty line, though we did have some nice conversation with the guy next to us. We also looked around at all the various forms of sunburn showing on the other riders.

Note to other women cyclists: No matter how hot it is, it's really not worth it to cycle just in your spots bra unless you have access to McKay's patented SPF100 sunscreen, and a way to slather it on even when your on the bike.

When I got my chance in the biffy, a train went by, and the flashing light/dark/light/dark along with the shaking ground made me a little seasick, plus it was already getting warm. Not enough to stop me from downing some more food from my snack bag before hitting the road again, and heading on to Vader.

I remember the road out of Winlock being a lot harder last year; this year, the section went by quickly as well. More rollers, and some worse than rollers, where there's no energy from a prior hill to help you up the next, but all in all, it wasn't bad. I met up with Sandy at the rest stop where we waited for B, who had had a problem with her cycling computer fritzing out. Another line, another refill of the water bottle.

(note: the vader people had water in containers, not in a water truck. Apparently, the one I got water from had once had coffee in it, so when I took a sip a ways down the road, I got the coffee flavor mixed with left over electrolyte drink. Mmmmm. NOT. I didn't drink a lot of this section, I tell you. I probably should have swapped to my other bottle the moment I realized that was what was going on, but by this time, the brain cells were already a little fried.)

There's another steep hill to get out of Vader, and I was following behind Sandy when this other rider went down in front of her; I saw the woman fall sideways into a mailbox, and thought she might have struck her head. Sandy pulled over at the driveway after the mailbox, to check how the woman, and I pulled over as well, just in case. The woman was shook up but okay, and her bike was in working order, so she waved our help away, insisting she just hit her knee and her wrist, but hadn't hit her head. (Personally, I was thankful she had a helmet.) So we all walked our bikes up the hill to the 'flat' section, and took off after that; when I next passed the woman outside of castle rock, the chain had come off her bike during the climb and someone else was helping her put it back on. I think the derailer might have gotten bent in that fall, but I don't know for sure. I did see her one last time, placing a call to someone at the Castle Rock rest stop, so maybe the bike had been hurt worse than we thought.

The hills into Castle Rock aren't nearly as fun as true rollers, but it is a lovely ride. The sun was climbing and it was getting pretty warm, and it was just around ten by the time I met up with Sandy and B again in the shade in front of the high school. We were able to keep the stop short though, and got back on the road to Lexington, which is where we had our big lunch stop.

The volunteers were very apologetic. They had run out of a lot of things, and were down to somewhat dry peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on wheat bread, plain bagels with nothing to put on them, a few pretzels, grapes and plumb. Since last year all I got was PB&J on squirelly bread, this was nearly a feast! I took some of everything--I got two of the sandwiches, and gave one to Sandy, so she wouldn't have to move from where she was sprawled out under a tree--and B grabbed the same, so we were able to picnic under the shade, until we were finally ready to move. The grapes weren't particularly sweet, but they were cold, which made them oh, so good.

I had remembered the ride to the bridge as being rather flat, but wow, was I wrong. Lots of hills, though none terribly steep, but it did seem like we were either going up or going down (a theme for the rest of the route.) It was hot, too, as we were past 11:00 am, and could tell that it was creeping into the 80s. So we sweated, and stopped, and climbed, and coasted, finally routing into Longview proper, and crossing the city to get to the bridge.

At one point, Sandy got so far ahead that she pulled into a shady spot under a bridge. When B and I caught up with her, she had a puppy cradled in her arms and was talking to the woman who owned it, who was holding a second one. Seriously, how many people get to have a puppy break on a long ride?

Standing around and waiting for our turn over the bridge was tough. We just missed the group ahead of us and got to watch them stream over the bridge while we waited at the stop light to get to our place in the line. So we ended up standing around for 15-20 minutes in the sun, getting hotter and hotter right around noon time, waiting for our chance to go; it really gave me way too much time to get anxious about the whole thing.

Fortunately, there were lots of other people to talk to. The two guys on cyclo-cross bikes who cross-dressed in the 1960s house dresses. The guy from Team Parkinson's who had been reminding me to drink electrolyte stuff whenever I ran into him at a rest stop or a stop light. The guy who was hand-cycling the distance, because he had no legs. (Really, he was the kind of guy that they make movies about. He was doing the STP as training from a trans-america tour. Seriously inspirationational.)

We got the signal to start moving, and despite our plan to go at the end, since, you know, bridges freak me out, I couldn't hang back and let myself get sweapt up in the crowd. B was great, and paced by me the whole distance across, so I didn't have to see the water, and I was able to focus on the butts ahead of me and just ground my way across. I'd forgotten how steep the bridge is, and it is a bit of a pull to get up and over; also, we couldn't speed down the way we did last year, since we were still with the crowd.

We pulled over at the little store after the bridge, after we were kicked off the gas station lot, where there was a tiny bit of shade; I called Lar from there, telling him that I had made it. A few people went in and bought ice cream, and man, did that sound good, but it was not to be. Instead, we headed back to highway 30, and the ten miles to Goble (which I perversely call Gobble, like a turkey.)

I must have used up my energy waiting in the sun or something, because, man, I could not get going, and my skin--which I had been applying sunscreen to at nearly every stop--just radiated heat. The road was slow going, and I was hot, and every hill we did just made me hotter. I felt like I was just crawling along, and it was tough to keep the pedals moving. There's a pretty good climb right before you hit Goble, and that was the point that I felt like I just could not cool down.

I stood in the shade, drinking ice water, and contemplated getting squirted with water, but every time I stepped out in the sun, it made me want to cry, it was just so hot. I guess it was 90 by then--the high got up to about 95 that day--and the road absorbs heat, radiating it back at the rider, so it might have been 100 in the sun out on the blacktop. I don't know.

Sandy and B were getting their stuff together to get back on the road, when I realized: I didn't have to do this. I had already done the STP last year, and if I gave up on the bragging rights and the finisher's badge, I could just quit. Call Lar, have him come get me, and just be done with the heat.

And I just decided that I really needed to do that. My legs felt good, my body was fine, but I had lost the mental component, the need to get it done. Getting out of the heat became my main goal, and I didn't want to end up with heat exhaustion, which I think I had at the Tour De Cure this year, or even something worse. I talked to Sandy and B, and they said 'hey, whatever, you decide, everyone does their own ride' and I decided that yeah, I could not deal with the heat. It's always been the bain of my existence, I was just done.

So I called Lar, and they went on; I got to hang out on the porch of the rest stop sitting in a chair 'till he arrived. Lots of people came through, some I worried about, but most seemed fine, if tired, and low energy. There was still 40 miles to go after the rest stop, but most riders were focused and 'I just want this done.' Lots of planning about dinner, lots of grumbling about 'who got me into this'--lots of hot dogs consumed. By the time I thought 'Doh! I could get a hot dog too,' the dogs were gone, so I had a snack out of my bag and waited.

After Lar picked me up in the lovely, air-conditioned truck, we headed back through St Helens and needed to stop for gas. I headed to the burgerville next door, meeting another group of riders who were just heading out. 'Can't go wrong in there,' one of them said, hitching a thumb at the door. 'it's all great.'

So I got a chunky monkey smoothie (banana, ice cream, chocolate, and a juice blend) and a hamburger, and the combo was simply amazing. (Not to mention the clean restroom that I didn't have to stand in line for. that was amazing too.) I looked for Sandy and B as we passed riders on the way back, but I didn't see them; I guess they hit the offical rest stop around that time for their break.

By the time I got to the hotel, I had cooled off. My legs cramped up a little in the car, but rubbed it out; after I showered, I rubbed my legs down with 'magic oil', and that was the last cramp I had for the night, which was fantastic, given that my track record for cramps while cycling in the heat is pretty high.

B called us about an hour out for the finish line, so we were able to wave and clap for them as she and Sandy crossed into Holiday Park in Portland at about 6:49. We got their stuff and ferried them to their hotel, then Lar and I got dinner and crashed for the night.

It really was a great experience.
wickedwords: (biking)
Let me interruptmy STP narrative to plug a couple of products. The first is what we called 'Magic Oil', though the real name is Aches and Pains oil, which is almond oil infused with arnica, st. john's wort, and lavender oil. I used it liberally Saturday and Sunday night, rubbing it into calves, thighs, feet and hands. (I actually did it twice, once right after my shower and once right before bed.) My hands had been cramping up but the massage relaxed them and I ended up with no night cramps at all. Since I had bad cramping the last two times I did long rides in 90 degree heat, this was amazing to me, absolutely 'magic.'

The other one is Burt's Bees Aloe and Linden After Sun Soother. If you look at the ingredients, it seems like a mixture of every home remedy for sunburn that you have ever heard of. But I've used it with the last bad sunburns I had from cycling, and by the next morning, it has cleared up and was a regular tan. Plus I love the way it smells.

The jury is still out on the mineral sunscreen I used. I did get burned on my arms just like always, even though I reapplied at every rest stop. I was thinking of switching back to the chemical sunscreen I'd brought about the time I bailed on the ride, and I would have had to wash the mineral stuff off first, as we'd seen bad reactions from combining the two a couple of weeks ago. I think in part using the mineral stuff contributed to a few of the concerned comments I got on the second day, as the mineral part made me look peaked and blotchy. (well, either that or zombie-like, but maybe that's the same thing.) I still reacted to my own sweat, so I have lovely goosebumps calming down today, but that's pretty normal for me from most sunscreens. At least it isn't serious hives.
wickedwords: (biking)
Ride Length: Close to 160 miles out of 204.
Elevation: 3000 ft?
Where: STP Route
Start Time: 6:15, 6:30
End Time: 5:30, 1:30 in the afternoon
How long: appx 19 hours
On bike time: Forgot to get this before the trip home, which added time and miles to the counter
Total Calories: 9000? more or less

As you can see, I didn't finish the full ride this year. I managed day one pretty well, even with the 90F/32C heat. The second day it got up to 95F/35C and after crossing the bridge into Oregon and going over one of the last really steep hills, I found some shade at the Gobel rest stop and decided that I just could not deal with the heat. [livejournal.com profile] shereld and B went on to finish the ride, while I opted out for a milkshake and a burger and a cool ride back to the motel, courtesy of my wonderful husband. One day of riding in the heat I could handle, but two days was just too much for me.

Don't feel bad for me, though! I was really pleased to finish nearly 160 miles of the route on such hot days. I've never done well in heat, and it really was the better choice for me to opt out. I didn't want to push myself and end up with heat exhaustion or worse; I'd already come pretty close to that when I did the Tour de Cure this year, and I didn't want a repeat.

Taking out the heat factor and looking back, I did enjoy myself. (I did whine a lot more, but I'm laying that at the heat factor too. If only it have been the average 75F/24C! That would have been just perfect.) On the first day, we took an alternate route to the first rest stop, and I was able to count 9 rabbits hanging out by the roadside along the way. We kept startling them as we threaded through parks, trails and little used roads during the wee morning hours; We didn't catch site of any other STP riders until we hit Tukwilla. We saw six other riders during that first section of the ride, which was a wonderful thing. When we turned off the Interurban trail in Kent at 228th to join up with the rest of the riders, we picked up another few thousand people, and we didn't get rid of them until near the end of the trip. I didn't clip in much at all because of how unpredictable the crowds are; I just didn't trust the people around me to behave responsibly.

The first rest area is pretty fun, even though it is a zoo. The theme this year was Vegas, and they had a Los Vegas Elvis helping to direct traffic. Plus the speakers are blaring good music, people are happy and excited, and everyone is milling around just waiting to go.

The big problem this year--and this was a continuing theme--was the huge line for the portapotties. It took us a half hour to get through the portapotty line, and that was pretty consistent for the entire trip at almost every official rest stop or mini-rest stop we were at. (The two exceptions are the Yelm rest stop and Castle Rock, both of which we managed to be in and out of in about 15 minutes. Well, okay, we spent longer at Yelm because they had flush toilets and let us inside the air conditioned school, which at that point was our definition of heaven...)

I did notice that in general, we had more groups than individual riders, compared to what I experienced last year. Lots of matching shirts, cycling club groups, etc. Last year, I could pretty much find a group of stragglers going my speed when I was tired and latch on for a bit; this year, not so much, and I ended up riding alone between large groups that had just passed me and groups that hadn't passed me yet. ;) As I got more tired, it was almost befuddling, and I wondered if maybe that was part of the reason the ride filled up so early, as groups signed up en-mass, rather than the onesie, twosie, threesie from last year.

Seriously, the things you think about on long stretches when you're trying to avoid dwelling on hot you are...Sandy at least kept me entertained at times with ideas for stories that she wanted me to write. I mostly grunted my replies, as I really didn't have the brain cells to plot a darn thing, but the visuals were nice.

Anyway, after Kent we headed to Puyallup, which seemed like a nicer stretch of road this year than last. Maybe there was less construction? I did miss not having the guy with the dog trailer pass me, as I loved keeping an eye out for his last year. This year, I kept an eye out for the guys in viking horns where one of the guys had a super-huge bike, or this other set of riders where the guys had picked up old 1960s house dresses at a thrift store and wore them over their bike shorts. I thought that was hysterical.

The unicyclist though, man, he was really hard core.

We bypassed the portapotties in Puyallup, and managed to find a grocery store where the lube, oil, and filter place next to it had opened up one of their rest rooms to passing cyclists. That was awesome, and very well timed, as we had less than a mile before the hill at that point.

The hill was the hill, 7%-8% grade, with a false top that lets you rest for a bit before the final push up to the top. It's not the only 7% grade hill on the route, but it is the longest one, and it deserves its press.

The Spanaway rest stop was better organized and had better food, not that we ate it. Mostly it was just pee, sunscreen, and grab some of what we brought to eat out of our bags. It may seem weird to ride one of these big events with a huge trunk filled with my own treats, but seriously, you never know what's going to be provided or if they are going to run out. This way, we were covered.

Oh, they also turned on the sprinkler system while we were waiting at the restrooms, and we got splashed. I did not mind in the least, and it was a theme through out the day and the next. We cyclist was a very popular look.

The stretch of road to Roy went faster than I remembered, and there was no Wilcox Dairy handing out chocolate milk this year. We bypassed it and then passed McKenna, and went straight onto the lovely indoor Yelm comfort stop.

The trail after Yelm was less happy making than I remembered from last year. The downhill was still wonderful, but for some reason, I remembered that there had been a lot more shade. It was getting really hot by then--upper 80s I guess--and we found several places just to pull over in the shade and have a quick electrolyte shot blok and something to drink.

At the end of the trail, Tenino rest area is pretty much a large ball field with woods on one side, which is where everyone parked to hang out in the shade. They also had ice cold water, which tasted fabulous, even through we only sipped at it in fear that too much too quickly might bring on stomach cramps. It didn't, and it was just perfect for that particular moment.

The road out of the park had recently been repaved with chip seal, which meant we got to ride over a bumpy road that smelled strongly of tar for the next six miles. At one point, Sandy had pulled off in some shade--She was riding faster than I was, and so I always met up with her in some shady spot on the roadway--and when I joined her and B, I left my bike at the very edge of the road rather than pull it off into the gravel. B said I should get it off the road, and I can remember thinking 'but it's not in the road, it's at the edge', yet apparently, I never said a work, I just stared at her like English no longer made sense. Sandy pulled my bike into the gravel, and B handed me the last of the cool water, and I had a couple more shot bloks; within a couple of minutes, I was fine, and able to communicate once again.

Just, you know, heat freaky. I really don't handle it well.

Fortunately, we were very close to Centralia by then, and rolled into the mid-point at about 5:30; I finally got my mid-point orange creamcicle, yay! Sandy and I flopped into the shade of a tree and lay back, wolfing down our prize, and then I called Lar to pick us up for the trip to the motel. We had a little confusion for a meetup point--at one point, Sandy, B and I are sitting in the shade on this little hill front of someone's house, when we hear "hey, hey! You want a fruit bar?" The lady who owned the place brought out a frozen fruit bar for each of us, which was sweet of her, though only Sandy accepted as I had just had the ice cream and wasn't yet ready for more--but we made it eventually. Lar's mom had sent some cranberry muffins fresh from the oven with him, so we snarfed those and chocolate soy milk on the way to the hotel.

By the time we showered, it was 7pm already, so we headed to the closest restaurant, had dinner, did whatever prep we needed for the next day, and crashed for the night.

STP Day 2

Jul. 17th, 2007 08:03 pm
wickedwords: (biking)
My bike computer wigged out, so I didn't have the exact numbers from the ride, but B sent then to me today:

Saturday: 97.65 miles, avg 12.2 mph, 7 hours and 59 minutes spent on the bike, total travel time 6:02 a.m. - 5:10 p.m.
Sunday: 106.5 miles, avg 11.7 mph, 9 hours and 5 mins on the bike, total travel time 6:20 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.

My left leg cramped up in the middle of the night, but I was able to rub it away; in the morning, I realized I hadn't taken any of the calcium/magnesium supplements I'd brought (aka Rolaids), so I made sure I had some for the day. Lar had gone out the night before and found me a bagel and a banana for breakfast amongst the decimated baked goods aisle of the local grocery, so I was able to eat early enough that we were on the road again in time to cross the Columbia River before the heat of the day.

The morning was cloudy and cool, and we ran into riders going a bunch of different directions. Some were headed back to the midpoint to drop off luggage, some were off to a meet up with other friends or had a different way to meet up with the regular route. B and I met up with the main route just after the midpoint, and threaded our way through the farmlands of Chehalis. I didn't know it then, but that was pretty much all of the flat riding we had all day. Everything else was either up or down a rolling hill, or in some intermediate 'flat spot' between the next group of rollers. It's tough.

We did see both goats and llamas on this stretch of road, in addition to the standard cows, horses, and plastic coated bales of hay, plus the crowds had really thinned out by this point. There were breaks and stretches where the riders in front of us disappeared around the bend, so that we were momentarily the only ones on the road. Such a huge change from Saturday morning!

It was wonderfully cool, too. We found out later that Saturday's high was about 88, while Sunday rain threatened for most of the day, and we did get sprinkles in spots. I wrinkled up my nose each time, but there was no use fighting it, and as long as it didn't turn into actual rain, a nice change from the constant baking heat of the prior day.

There's a big climb up a hill into Napavine, and the town's postage stamp sized, so there wasn't much to go through. We pulled over and had a snack, but I wanted to get to the portapotty stop that was supposed to be at the edge of town. Before we found them, we encountered a church group that was giving out fresh banana bread, and B pricked up a slice before we moved on.

The Napavine rest stop was awesome. There were only 4 sanicans--no food, no water, and no lines. We were in and out and on our way to Winlock in about 4 minutes, a feat unsurpassed at any other rest stop on the trip.

After that hill, we basically had 30 miles of rollers with something of a headwind along with occasional showers, through Winlock, Vader, and Castle Rock. We passed by the largest egg in Winlock, which was right in front of the convenience store that we stopped at; if B hadn't pointed it out, though, I never would have noticed.

Speaking of obtuse moments, sometime after we passed through Winlock while we were climbing up a hill in the sprinkly rain, I caught a glimpse of a rider making a dash for the bushes, but it wasn't until he shoved his hands in his bike pants that I realized 'oh my god, look away! he's going to pee!' He either hadn't stopped at the rest area, or the line had been too long, or he hadn't realized how long it was to the next bit of civilization, so he used a nature break instead. In general, most people were very good about using the portapotties, but there really were long stretches of road with nothing but trees and farmland around them.

I loved the Vader ministop; it seemed very friendly, and while I stood in line for the portapotty, a nine or ten year old who was on like his second or third STP told me what to watch out for on the road ahead. He also told me scary stories about the Longview Lewis and Clark bridge, which made me dread going over it all the more. Later, when we actually crossed the bridge, I realized he'd been meaning that if you look through the expansion joints, you can see the water below, but, pfff. I had a death grip on my handlebars by then and was looking neither right nor left, and kept my focus on the riders ahead. If I'd been riding on the back of a tandem, maybe I would have had a chance to look down, but as it was...not so much.)

After Castle Rock, I think we got another flat stretch of road into the Lexington food stop. We were late enough at 11:30 am that all the fruit was gone, but I snagged a PB & J on squirrelly bread and wolfed it down while waiting in line. I had to wait awhile as a few of the toilets had run out of TP, and I hadn't brought my Kleenex with me. But soon enough, everything was taken care of, and we wound our way through the industrial Kelso and Longview--ah, the scent of wood pulp makes me nostalgic--to wait in line to go over the Longview bridge.

Remember my bridge phobia? Yeah, well, I think I have aleady said enough about that. B was great, helping me visualize before hand what it would be like to be done with it and tell people about it, so I was as mentally prepared as I could be. We went toward the end of the line, grinding slowly up the bridge deck and then coasting quickly down it and into Oregon. People were really good about going around me as I worked my way up the hill, and with the Gold Wing motorcycle team escorting us over--some in front, some in back, making sure we were safe--it turned out to be a lot better than I thought it would be. When we got to ground in Rainer, Or, B & I pulled off the road so I could call Lar and give him a "whoo-hoo! I did it!" My worst fear about the ride, and it turned out to be so much better than I thought.

At that point, we're on Highway 30 for the next 50 miles. Much of it is rough chip seal, so you vibrate as you ride over the terrain. There's a wide shoulder sometimes, and a narrow one others, and a lot of the time, even if you're on the flat, you can see that there is another fucking hill in front of you just up the road a ways. Meanwhile, the sun beats down on you incessantly, and there's no available shade. This section really is a grind, and where I wished I could do 15 mph on a regular basis, just to get through the thing.

We stopped at the Goble ministop and got water, but they'd run out of everything except toilet paper by this point; besides, it was a rocky, dirty wide spot in the road, that really didn't have much going for it, other than the nifty looking tavern and boat. The St. Helens rest stop had shade, though, and water, and PB bagels. I whined a lot again, as my ass hurt, I was hot, and why had we ever wanted to come on this ride anyway? B found popcorn though, and I was able to douse my head with cold water, and wet down the large neckerchief/buff I'd brought, so I could tie it around my neck. That did cool me down, and the food helped; so we got back on the bikes and headed toward the last stop at Scappose.

Oh, hey! Between Vader and Castle Rock, B had ridden and chatted for a while with a guy from Ohio; he had never ridden this far in his life--I think he said 50 miles was his longest ride ever. And Ohio doesn't have hills, so the fact that the STP is considered a flat ride floors him. (Me, too) But when we were in St. Helens, the woman next to us was on her cell, trying to track him down; he was apparently an hour ahead of her, already at the Scappose stop. I don't know if he waited for her or not, but at that moment, I felt so proud of him, for going harder and faster than he's ever done before. There was a lot of people I felt that way about--Twenty year old sons and their moms, Dads with their kids on a tandem or a whole family group riding together. And at 45 years old, and 200 lbs, I was neither the oldest nor the largest rider in any way. The crowd was incredibly diverse, and some of the riders that passed were speaking languages other than English. The hard core went through the first day, so by this point, it was all normal people who had trained their butts off to get here, who were going at a slow and steady pace.

One of the cool things that happened was that I was following behind this woman that I had encountered several times on the ride, and she suddenly points at the side of the road off on our right. I'm used to her pointing out road hazards, but I can't think what can be so far over there by the trees that would be hazardous to us.

I looks and the words "Oh! A fox!" squeak out. She nods vigorously, and we continue on our way; later one I realize that I was brain dead enough that I didn't process the color of the animal: it was a baby coyote, standing in the trees at the side of the road, frozen in confusion or fear as there insane cyclists passed by. It was an awesome moment.

Scappose was a great pit stop. Just knowing that there were only 16 miles left made everything so much more bearable. My goal had been to make each rest stop before it closed, and we managed it, hitting Scappose at about 4:30. We called into our friends and family, and estimated another hour and a half, given that we hadn't hit the restrooms yet. Then we were off on the last stretch, and moving out of the heat of the day; this last bit, we occasionally got a cool breeze.

Portland takes forever to get through. It's the industrial section, so it's not pretty, but at mile 200, some of the gold wings were waiting under a tarp, making some racket at we passed and telling us we only had 4 miles left to go. Not long after, we hear a loud 'pop' and one of the 2 guys in front of us had gotten a flat. What a bitch to go all that distance, and have to change your tire right there at the last minute.

B and I stopped and had a snack--I broke into my animal cookies at last--and agreed that we'd walk up that last listed 'short, steep hill' on our way to the finish line. It wasn't that long, but I'm glad we did; by this time, my butt was letting me know that it wasn't really happy.

There was one confusing intersection, but B had the map, so we all followed her. We had to climb up over the Broadway Bridge (yes, one more final fucking bridge) and one last hill after that, one where the grade wasn't so steep.

We wound through some more of the city, and then we could see people starting to clap for us as the passed by, letting us know we were almost there. We saw the red cones, and people were sitting on the sidewalks waving and shouting 'Who-hoo!' 'Hurray!' "You did it!". It was awesome, and right before entering Holiday Park, I spotted Sandy with her camera, waving at us.

So we had to stop for a stoplight, and wait before we could enter the park.

I spotted Lar and waved him over to me, and he gave me a big kiss while Sandy gave one to Brie. Then we entered the park, and I got my finisher's patch, and I was so happy, I nearly cried. 13 years ago, when my heart failed due to my pregnancy, they thought I might need a heart transplant. Instead, I've done something I'd never thought possible: I biked 200 miles and crossed the longview bridge. And I did it less than a month before my 45th birthday.

{{{Hugs}} to you all. Thank you so much for your support.

ETA: since I took no pictures on this ride, here's a link to Pedaling to Portland which has many images of where we went.
wickedwords: (biking)


Ride Length: 204 miles (approximately)
Elevation: 3600 ft? mostly rolling hills
Where: STP Route Guide
Start Time: 6:15 am (ish) on both days
How long: 11 hrs on Sat, 12 hrs on Sun, more or less. 23 hrs total. This includes all stops.
Avg Speed: 12 mph Sat, 11 mph Sunday
Heart Rate: 124 avg, 152 max for Sat, and Sunday was 122 avg, 148 max
Total Calories: about 17,000.

Whoo-hoo! I did it. About 25 miles from the end, I was whining like a whining thing, but once I got to the next rest stop, I found my determination again and finished the tour. It was incredible.

Day 1: [livejournal.com profile] sherrold opted out of the ride, so Sat at 6 am, B and I started from their house on Capital Hill, with the plan that Lar and Sandy would meet the two of us in Centralia, providing support in case something went wrong.

We met up with the pack on Lake Washington Blvd, and headed to Steward Park and our first mini rest stop. During this section of the ride, we encountered our first set of paramedics tending to a rider. Seattle had the most incidents that required someone other than the rider medics in attendance, mostly due to 6000 people all trying to get through the same places at the same time. Somewhere on the West Highway, after Auburn but before Sumner, there was a 'thread the needle' effect, with too many people trying to go through too small a space; I braked so I wouldn't hit anyone, but the woman behind me tapped my wheel and went down. She was okay, but like I said, conditions were really crowded at times early in the day, and awareness of other riders and stopping distance was really important. The worst accident was on Highway 30 in Oregon, where a drunk driver hit a cyclist. I'm glad I didn't know about that until I got back.

The morning was great, though, despite the crowds. Cloudy and cool, and it was impossible to get lost, as we all followed the riders ahead of us. In fact, the crowds meant that everyone was drafting at least a little, and so the pace to the first official rest stop. The mass of humanity there meant it took us 20 minute to get food and water, and to hit the portapottie--and that was the fastest official stop of the day. By Sunday, though, we had fallen to the end of the crowds, and so stops went a little faster though they were out of most choices of food by the time we got there. But since I like peanut butter, fruit, and bagels, there was pretty much always something I could eat. Plus we packed a lot of our own food; I lived on clif bar shot blocks, bars, and electrolyte drink for most of the trip. The food at the stops was extra.

We had a pretty good ride down to puyallup, and the rest stop before the big hill of the ride. Again, long lines for the portapotties, and after that, the long mile-plus climb, with a 6% grade. I think I managed 5 mph going up the thing, but we didn't walk, and I was proud of us for getting through it. We stopped at a shady spot at the top to eat and drink, and ended up chatting with a couple of bear-looking guys one of whom had a small stuffed bear attached to his helmet. This was like the 6th time they'd done the ride, and they were both very sweet, telling us the lay of the land ahead of us to centralia.

Spanaway was even more of a zoo than Kent had been, and it took us a half hour to find everything. They had weird food at this stop--rice, corn, and bean wraps plus green grapes and not much else. I snagged a bar and grapes, but B passed all the stuff by, as the grapes turned out to be on the sour side.

It was also starting to get hot by then, and we were only about halfway through the day. The next section was okay, but getting hot; we hit Roy and stopped in the shade, and noticed that Wilcox Dairy was giving out free chocolate milk on the other side of town. I passed it by, as I was afraid something cold and milky would give me cramps right then, and promised myself something at the next rest stop.

Only McKenna was out of everything when we got there. Indoor toilets, yes--one of the great things about being a girl on one of these rides is that there's less of a line at the toilets when they're separated by gender--but the water in the women's room was hot water, which isn't really drinkable for awhile, so unless you stood in the long lines to go to the men's room, you were out of luck for refilling your water bottle. So I dinked around going to the nearby gas and incidentals store, where everyone else had gone--long lines, cold-and-therefore-also-undrinkable-yet-water, and no change so everything had to go on the debt card. I think we ate up 45 minutes with this, so it was really hot though Yelm, the 72 mile mark; at that point, I nearly gave up.

But we soldiered on, and got moved onto a wooded trail as the police in the area refused to let so many cyclists on the road at the same time due to accidents. It was blissfully shaded, and had many hidden downhills--places that looked flat but weren't, and in a good way-- so we rode fast and cool for a while, and suddenly, by the end of the trail, I was ready to do it and finish the day's ride.

So when we left that last rest area, we were in good spirits and the last 13 miles of rolling hills didn't seem too bad. We pealed off from the crowd to get to model after we hit Centralia--a couple of riders followed us until B told them we were going to the hotel--and met Sandy and Lar when we got there.

Then blissful A/C, blissful shower, blissful food, and blissful sleep.

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