Thursday, July 22, 2004

Seattle To Portland

The STP was incredible. I mean, I had the time of my life and now that it has been a couple days home I feel like I have told this story 974 times and don't have the same fire to tell it again.

This is one well-supported ride with everything from mechanic and message and first-aid tents to motorcycle escorts and prepared lunches. The route was well marked, the weather was perfect, the terrain was domitable, gently rolling through green pastoral farmland. What else can I say? All together there were 8000 registered riders (sold out), plus 51 additional volunteer support and safety riders, 1,845 one day riders, participants ranged from under 10 to over 80 years of age, 27.8% female and 72.2% male, total mileage was 206 miles. This was the 25th annual STP.

I drove the rental to Seattle on Friday and got so excited I started waving a hand made STP? sign at any other vehicle with a bicycle attached. Man, people go crazy for that kind of thing, they just totally geek out and start swerving and gesturing and giving thumbs up and rolling their windows down and trying to yell into a 75mph breeze that you best be having a good time this weekend. It was so much fun, just hopping in my seat all the way up the road feeling like I was going to burst.

My Aunt Jeanette and her husband drove over from eastern Washington and we met at my Uncle Jim's house on Lake Washington in Seattle, had dinner, told tall tales, sized up front forks and water bottle placement, discussed the merits of integrated shifters and presta valves... It was an early-to-bed night which left me listening to my heart beat in the dark with totally dilated pupils, wondering why I hadn't anticipated this, prepared for this with some hot tea and valarian root at the very least. After all, you know, I am medically unable to fall asleep before 4am.

Start Line

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But I bounce back. We were up by 4:30 and crossing the start line by 6:30am. They opened the starting gates every 10 minutes and let another cluster of cyclists out onto the road. As the STP is not a race but a self paced ride this had the nice effect of keeping a diverse mix of all demographics woven together rather then the natural striation of riders by their pace and athleticism alone.


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The first day I fell into a couple different pace groups, drafted and led and made friends at the rest stops. I fell in love all over again with cycling, which I have really put on the back burner in favor of running this last year. But since late June when my hip joint began pulverizing itself I have been riding again. Woah! I forgot how much fun it can be to ride with a fast, responsive draft line.


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Drafting, in case you were wondering is a technique used by cyclists to overcome the enormous force of aerodynamic drag. Drafting is the act of riding behind another cyclist in an area of reduced air pressure created in the wake of that leading cyclist. The drafting cyclist uses less energy to maintain the same speed as the cyclist they are trailing. There are a lot of safety issues, rules, and etiquette to drafting and they are not always followed. I am fairly speedy and it isn't unusual if you are zipping down the road to pass other riders and have them hop on your tail so you can pull them along for awhile. I have looked over my shoulder to find five or six cyclists just inches off my back tire, which can be potentially dangerous. However, if you fall in with a good group it can be really exhilarating.

We arrived in Centralia just after 3pm on Saturday, showered, ate, mingled, camped, was asleep by 9:30 and up by 4:30 and on the road again at 6:30 am

Lunch Stop

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First thing that morning I broke into a pace line of four guys just flying down the road. These guys had thighs the size of my waist and were not fucking around. My new first they were amused that I would try to keep up but were sufficiently impressed by the next rest stop that they introduced themselves and invited me to ride with them again. They lost me after 20 more miles or so. Waiting for lunch I heard someone yelling my name LOOK WHO ROLLED IN, HEY ASIA YOU MADE IT! They were lounging under a tree amidst 5000 other cyclists. I left with them for another 50 miles till they pulled ahead on an incline and I just couldn't keep up and the exhaustion of 170 miles was setting deep into my muscles. I straggled the last 30 miles in to Portland at a much slower speed of 15mph and crossed the finish line at 2:15 in the afternoon.

Crossing Into Oregon

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Holladay Park in Portland was a crazy festival of gritty cyclists with funny tan lines and enthusiastic friends and family. Kate was at the line to cheer me in. People kept rolling in for hours and hours. We were a spinning city of bicycles after all, stretched along a hundred miles of road.

Kate and I went to the beer garden and standing around looking for a chair I heard a guy behind me telling his friend HER NUMBER IS 3100, I SAW HER COMING INTO THE FINISH LINE BUT I CAN'T FIND HER NOW and that's me! It was my friend Ned in an improbable crowd looking for me... We sat around rehashing the ride yelling over the music and bustle of the crowd.

Jeanette got in at about 3:30 and we said our goodbyes. I went out to dinner with Sam, felt like I did when I came home from summer camp *homesick* and was fast asleep by 11:30.

I have a sunburn across my back like a belt strap where I forgot to put sunblock between my shirt and shorts. I have never been so red.

And now you know where I live.

My stats for day one:

  • 17.2 mph Average speed
  • 101.54 miles
  • 35.5 mph top speed
  • 5:48:12 total riding time

I didn't clear my odometer for the second day so do the math. The combined statistics for the whole ride:

  • Average speed 17.1 (damn head wind... I was up to 17.4 at the 180th mile)
  • 206.74 miles
  • Didn't beat the top speed from day one
  • 11:50:05 total riding time

Thats pretty damn good!


kara said...

Quite the bike ride - 101 miles in a one day! Geez my ass would be so sore I've have to sleep vertical. But I suppose you had a pair of those fancy Pearl Izumi padded ass units on :)
Great pics too!

Anonymous said...

Holy tamales! That is damn good. :) And sounds like a ton of fun. Thanks. Good pixs too.



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