30 March 2009

Seattle to Portland by Bicycle
(210 miles)

"The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man.
Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish.
Only the bicycle remains pure in heart."  

- Iris Murdoch, Irish-born British author/philosopher (1919-1999)

July, 2006. Woke up at 3:00 AM in order to stretch, have coffee & eat a light breakfast.

I clicked into my pedals in front of my house at 4:15 in the morning, up the street a few people were just getting home from a Friday night of partying. As I rode past them, they looked at me as if I was insane. It was still full dark.

I rode over to the start line at the University of Washington campus and met up with my co-worker, JJ. It was just the two of us together, as all the rest who had said they were going to ride with our group had dropped out for various reasons. We joined the 9,000 other riders milling about, and we ended up rolling out for the start of the ride just before 4:45 AM. The first 25 miles or so wound along Lake Washington Blvd, past Seward Park and along the route I take when I ride to work...

We stopped at a rest stop near my office in Kent for a couple of minutes to get rid of the early morning coffee and have some energy bars. We got to "the Hill" in Tacoma (as the ride organizers like to call it) before 7:00 AM. It was a fairly steep, mile-long ride - but no different than many of the hills we ride all the time. A few people were walking their bikes up, but not many.

We got to the rest stop at 50 miles and had some bananas and more energy food. As we rolled out, we jumped on a train of about 20 bikers and picked up the pace. We flew over the next 50 miles without stopping and arrived at the half-way point, Centralia, 100 miles into the ride, at 10:50 AM. Our goal had been to be at 100 miles by noon so we beat that by over an hour. It was the easiest hundred miles I had ever ridden - we averaged 19mph for the whole hundred, and that included the hill and the rollers.

JJ's girlfriend was driving support for us along with his dog, and met us in Centralia. Most of the 9,000 riders who participate in the STP ride it in two days, and Centralia is where most of them stop for the night. We were among the (foolish?) minority who had determined to ride it all in one day.

We relaxed in Centralia, rested, had a big spaghetti feast, lots of water, stretched, and then rolled out again just after noon. We had planned on going somewhat easy for the first 10 miles or so after Centralia, but it was clear pretty fast that JJ wasn't feeling good. We stopped at the next rest stop and he laid on the ground, complaining of a stomach-ache. After a bit I convinced him to get back on the bike and continue on. I kept hoping he would ride himself back into form, but he continued to get worse. He said the food was sitting in his stomach like a rock. We stopped in Winlock and he laid in the shade for about 20 minutes.

We mustered on. He would seem to look better and so I would pick up the pace and then look back and find him about a quarter mile behind. It seemed to take us forever just to get to a mini-rest stop at mile 137. Again he laid in the shade for about half an hour. I felt bad for him, but was getting antsy and frustrated at our slow pace. We had been cruising so well for the first 100 miles, but our momentum was now broken. We nursed ourselves to the rest stop at mile 145 and met up with JJ's girlfriend again. We told her she had better stop at every rest stop from now on, just in case.

I wouldn't have pushed him so hard, except that this wasn't the first time he had gotten sick on a ride. We had ridden the Flying Wheels Summer Century a few weeks previous. It was a 100-mile ride around northern King and southern Snohomish counties, with over 3,000 feet of climbing. After the first steep climb, just 8 miles into the ride, JJ had puked. He had had a triple latte and an egg McMuffin before starting (idiot!) and that didn't sit well with the exertion. After throwing up he felt better and was able to continue and finish that ride. With that memory in mind I just assumed he would eventually get better and be OK.

JJ rested again, ate a bit, and laid down. He said he thought we was feeling a little better. This would proof false however, as soon as we started again. He was still feeling pretty bleak & weak, and our slow pacing had really brought my energy level down as well and I began to feel the miles a lot more.

We passed through Longview, Washington and crossed into Oregon at mile 152, over the huge, steep Lewis & Clark bridge across the Columbia River. I paced JJ up and over the bridge and we continued on. The rollers were a little less steep now, but our pace was still well below where I wanted it to be.

Eventually we made it to mile 175 and I told JJ I thought he had better call it a day. He had had the dry heaves for the last few miles and was wobbling on his bike. Since his stomach was so upset he wasn't able to eat and drink enough and so that compounded his problems. He had come to the same conclusion, that he was done, and crawled into the back of his girlfriend's Blazer. I told them I would see them at the finish line.

Extremely tired and sore at this point, I decided to try to ride the rest of the way in as fast as I could. I jumped on the wheel of two really strong riders and drafted behind them at about 24mph for the next 15 miles, then stopped to refill my water bottles for the final push. Riding solo, and basically trying to time-trial home to finish the damn thing as fast as I could, I tried to stay between 18 and 22mph, I finally crossed the bridge into Portland and rolled across the finish line sometime after 8:00 PM.

Even with all the meandering and rest stopping, I still managed to average about 17.5mph for the entire 210-mile ride. Just over 12 hours of actual saddle time.

I met up with JJ and his girlfriend and went immediately to the beer garden. A cold one had never tasted so perfect. JJ was feeling a bit better - he had eaten and napped - but was still not well. After resting a bit with some more beer, we climbed into the car, got some food, and began the long drive back up to Seattle. Got home about 1:00 AM, took a long, hot shower, and fell into bed...

KJT - Seattle to Portland (2006)

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