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Cascade 2014: A Perpetual Climb and Spinning Like Crazy
Ride dates: June 21-24, 2014
by Jaime Guzman

Yes, I know the ride probably had as much descending as it had climbing but trust me, it actually felt like we were climbing forever. And yes, I know you can climb easier if you spin, but knowing it doesn’t mean your body actually gets it.

Having read the information about the route in the 2014 Cascade 1200 website, I expected a lot of climbing, but the ride far exceeded all my expectations. It seems the organizers were saying: “Let’s start the ride here so we can climb this hill, then go here to climb that other hill, then go there so we can climb that one, and let’s add another 40 Km so we can also climb this other hill.” As it happens, it took two days of hard climbing before my body finally learned that when your legs are shot the only thing left to do is to “spin like crazy”.

Day 1 – A Half Cowpie Mistake
I don’t know what possessed me, but when I reached the first control at Km 85 in a 1240 Km ride, I decided I needed a hot breakfast and a coffee. So I asked Charlie and Kathy where to stop (they were riding their tandem) and they said the next town down the road had a few restaurants. When I pulled into Charlie’s many riders thought I had lost my way. I ordered the first thing on their menu, a Half Cowpie, which was described as hashbrowns with bacon topped up with a fried egg and lots of gravy (yes I know, enough to give you a heart attack and not an appetizing name!).

Obvious to say, by the time I was done pretty much every randonneur in the ride was ahead of me. A mistake I paid for later with very hard work. Anyway, thankfully I got picked up by a group of riders that where still behind me and we got into a nice group ride.

You’d think I learned my lesson, but at the control in Randle just before the Elk Pass 4080 feet climb, I still stopped at a pub for soup while the other randonneurs were very efficient with a quick stop at the grocery store.

The forest was truly beautiful through most of the climb but by the time we finished our descent on the other side, it was already getting dark and we still had 60 Km and over 3000 feet to climb. It was quite late (actually early, if you get my meaning) by the time Kaley and I reached Carson Springs. After a sulfur-rich shower I fell dead sleep before you could count to 3.

I wonder if something got lost in translation when at the after-ride breakfast I tried to explain that a cowpie for breakfast derailed my ride.

Day 2 – Spinning Like Crazy
Around 5:00 am, I somewhat managed to get on the road at the same time that a group of four Canadian randonneurs. I decided not to repeat my mistakes and only stop when they stop, and go at the same pace they did. I tried to keep the pace with Bob and the two Garys up and down and up again through a canyon, working our way towards Bickleton under scorching temperatures of up to 40 degrees. Big mistake again! Bob and the two Garys are strong climbers, I am not. Before getting into real trouble with heat shock, I decided to say my farewells and stop to re-group under the shade of a tree. Barry passed by shortly thereafter. Obvious to say I didn’t see them again for the rest of the day.

To top it up, I got a pinch flat courtesy of bad rail crossings and had to stop in the heat of mid afternoon to change the tube. By the time I got to Sunnyside (Yes, it was “sunny” and hot enough!) it was clear there was no way on earth I could make it to the overnight control without the “mental draft” of riding with other randonneurs. So I asked the riders at the control (Gary 3, Debra, Drew, Mannie and Glenn) if I could ride with them. They said: “You are welcome to ride with us, but we are aiming for a steady fast pace, except for the initial miles to give Mannie a chance to get started”. Oh boy I thought, but I had no other option! I said I would try to keep up and if not, I would just fall back with Mannie.

My legs were entirely shot from all the climbing in 40 degree temperatures. It was absolutely impossible to wring any power out of them. Then somehow my body finally clicked-in that the only thing left to try was to spin like crazy. I had seen Gary 1 climb that way earlier in the day and Jim showed me that you can also spin like crazy in a paceline to keep up the speed.

I thank the other riders for their patience with my disrupting the paceline constantly as I “spinned like crazy” all the way to Ephrata.

It was a very long way to Ephrata in the middle of the night. We got there almost at 3 am. We decided to get up at 8:00 since Day 3 was a short “rest day”.

Day 3 - Desert for Two
For some strange reason my magic number for sleep in long rides is 3 hours, and sure enough, at 6:00 am I just wake up. Despite all the pain and the tiredness, I decided there was no way I’d go back to sleep and the best use of the time was to get started. Strangely enough and without previous agreement, I was ready to go at the same time than Barry and Gary 1 were leaving. This time I was determined not to try to keep the pace with Gary and fell back with Barry. Sure enough, Gary disappeared into the Sun in no time.

I had known of Barry from reading ride results in the BC Randonneurs website and occasionally saying hi during a brevet, but I had never had an actual conversation with him in my 6 years with the BC Randonneurs Club. What a pleasant ride and talk as we cruised at a steady but slower pace, enjoying open skies and desert landscapes. It was truly a “treat” for both of us.

Barry set up the strategy for the day as we approached the control at Farmer, complete with times to hit controls and the Loup Loup pass. I laid out my requests plainly: to take any climb very slowly, to stop and cool down as often as needed, and to avoid climbing Loup Loup pass in the middle of the heat.

Things worked out exactly as Barry planned, but as often happens in randonneuring even the best plans get derailed at the 11th hour, this time by very strong head winds, side winds, and “up and down” winds in the final 20 Km approaching Mazama.

Day 4 - Gorgeous Washington Pass in the Rain
There was only one way I could survive a fourth day climbing up Washington Pass: start very early and take it as slow as possible. The alarm went off at 3:00 am and as I opened the door it seemed like a torrential downpour was coming down (it was actually light rain, but to my tired brain sounded like a tragedy). I had laid out my clothing the night before to try to take on a fourth day in the heat. This changed everything. In retrospect, the rain and cooler temperatures actually helped a lot.

I left ahead of Barry and had a great time saying good morning to every rider as they passed me while I was crawling my way out of Mazama at a snail’s pace. It took many hours and many stops but I made it all the way to the top and even took some photos of the fantastic views.

The descent on the other side was absolutely blissful. To my surprise Gary, Barry and I ended up together again at the hot chocolate tent set up by the organizers (Greatly appreciated!). They helped me with hot tips about the descent, since they have done it multiple times.

With the last big climb behind us, but very tired, we slowly regained some time until we made the mistake of stopping at the Big Rock Café for dinner. It took forever, the food was so-so and the service was awful. I had stopped there at a previous ride and that time the service was so-so and the food was awful. To any ride organizers reading this: Please do not include the Big Rock Café in future brevets. Other randonneurs’ experiences may be different, but I will not stop in that place ever again!

The gentle descent after the penultimate control trough beautiful roads and cycling trails was superbly designed. Our only regret was that nightfall came and we could not fully enjoy it with daylight.

With over 12,000 meters (yes, meters!) of total elevation and 1240 Km of length the Cascade 2014 was one of the most epic journeys I have ever undertaken. It was full with different landscapes, good and bad times, exhaustion and pain in every body part (Particularly that body part that sits on the saddle!). But as Barry and I said while driving back to Vancouver, one of the best things about randonneuring is the new friends you make. Hell, they are even willing to smuggle a Mexican they just met (yours, truly) across the border. Thank you to Theo and Barry for the drive and the chat.

Well there you have it, I thought I knew how much climbing was ahead and how to spin my wheels, but I didn’t. There are many things in this life that you can only truly learn by living them.

Stay well and remember: Enjoy the Ride. Never Quit.

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June 26, 2014