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Planning vs. The Trance of Speed
Cascade 1200 - Day One
Ride dates: June 21-24, 2014
by John Oswald

Go To: Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Epilogue

I am not much into planning my rides. As a high school teacher and coach I spend an excessive amount of time dreaming up and producing lesson/practice/game plans so when it comes to my recreational activities, I usually drag my feet or ignore the planning process altogether. For brevets, sometimes I glance at the route sheet or map to get an idea of roads and terrain, but mostly I show up and Just Ride ™. I am not opposed to "Spirited Riding"™ and I do like to go fast when I can. However, my goal for this edition of the Cascade 1200 was to finish in good enough shape to complete the VanIsle 1200 three weeks later and qualify for the CanAm medal. My 'preparations' led me to sharing a room with Chris Cullum 8 miles east of the start in Monroe, WA because Monroe's hotels were all booked by the time we thought of looking for a bed...a week before the start date.

So as we dressed in the pre-dawn light of our apparently-only-recently-commissioned-non-smoking room, I groggily came to the realization that my skull cap and gloves were still on the dining room table back home. A cycling cap could stand in and cover my freshly shorn head but my hands were another issue. I'd have to keep my eyes open for other options. We hit the road (Hwy 2) with my hands tucked into my handlebar bag to hide them from the wind. Arrival in Monroe a little earlier than 'planned' allowed me to buy some NFL winter gloves at a gas station. Unfortunately, no Seahawks gloves remained so I had to choose between The Pat's and the The Pack. I chose Pat the Patriot….

We crashed the host hotel's breakfast and then went to return the previous night's dinner rental before the ride. A BC rider (who shall remain nameless) left the men's room toilet plugged and bereft of TP when my turn came up and I had to go to the front desk and explain that I needed a plunger and a roll of toilet paper to use the facilities because…"I'd already turned in my room key."

After I'd saved everyone else's first hour of the ride, I did my business and got out to the front of the hotel to try and resurrect my rear light, which seemed to have gone from working at Bike Check the night before to not working this morning….
No Dice. I'd be using my MEC turtle light if we arrived at the overnight control after dark.
Once on the road we were cruising south as the sun rose over misty fields.

Although Chris and I had "planned" not to start this ride with the leaders, we now found ourselves in the main pack 10-20 spots back from Ed Person pulling the peleton towards Issaquah. As we rolled up and down through the early morning light I chatted with Nigel Press, Ryan Golbeck and Keith Fraser--people I hadn't planned on seeing after the start line. It was just so simple to spin along behind the leading edge at 110bpm that I was now caught up in the Trance of Speed. When we got to the first T-intersection of the ride one hour in, we tucked in behind Ryan and SIR stud, PBP lead group rider and RAAM finisher Chris Ragsdale. While Ragsdale spun the group up to 40km/h Chris Cullum asked me,"How did we end up here?!?" I knew that a selection was coming at the next turn so I was comfortable with our position because the choice of staying in our current spot would soon be made for us. Indeed, as Ryan rode away from me on the climb, Chris called for a nature break and we then found ourselves where we were more comfortable--in the second tier. We were now tootling along with two SanFran Randos and two guys from Texas trying to hang through the rollers and on the climb up to the Issaquah Park-and-Ride. The rest of the way to the first control was spent in the low 30's and I was feeling pretty good. The Texas guys were saying that they might have to let us go but were relieved when I said staying in the low 30s was not sustainable. Thus began a cycle where Chris and I towed this group and the older guys just sat in and kept opening up spots in line for us after our pulls. Eventually, I just ignored the gap, went all the way to the back, waited through the line and felt much better when I got back on the front. During this section, we got our first view of Mount Rainier and I managed to get some pics of our group.


Unfortunately, as I came back to the front, Keith Fraser (doing a slightly modified 1000km route from the other leaders) rode up beside me and I was, once again, seduced by the "Trance of Speed". It began with redlining it on a downhill and I continued to crush it along a bike path for 8km while everyone strung out to stay on my wheel. Since I was riding close to the sound barrier, Chris would have to inform me later in the ride that during this escapade (which would come to be known as my, "Bike Path Antics," for the next 1100km) "Tex" was saying,"Hey Girls!" to every group of female walkers, joggers and cyclists going the other way. I guess maybe if you only pull once an hour you still have energy left for Southern Etiquette...

After burning a crate of matches on the bike path, the rest of the ride into the second control of Eatonville on chip-sealed rollers was lost in "The Fog of Fatigue"--" If you think THIS is chip seal, you boys outta come down to Texas!"


I had some chicken legs from the Eatonville Market Deli in an effort to weigh myself down and…it worked. Chris and Keith pulled away on the first climb and near the top, Chris looked back, soft pedalled and let Keith go ahead of us. For the rest of the morning we rode at the pace we should have been riding all day and enjoyed a nice meal at a diner in Randle.

The first sustained climb of the day was up Elk Pass. The road was fairly gentle and shaded from the heat of the afternoon. It was unrelenting for 40 km though and the occasional steep switchback began to take its toll. Chris was feeling what the French call, "Le gout de l'effort," (a taste for the effort) and slowly disappeared up the road. I was now alone with my thoughts and most of them were questions:
- Why is this so hard?
- Why had I felt the need to put the hammer down in the first two hours?
- Had riding the tandem all spring left holes in fitness and/or pedal stroke?
- Would Chris wait at the top?
- What clothes should I put on for the descent?

By looking at the mileposts, I knew I had about a mile to the top when I saw Chad Coates looking like he was "having a fight with his bicycle", up the road from me. As I approached I could see the salt crusted on his jersey and bibs as he tried to muscle his bicycle up the hill. Given that he had left for Elk Pass as we arrived at the diner in Randle, he wasn't exactly "helping himself to this climb".

Chad commented that it would be nice to have some downhill soon for a break and I grunted in agreement. At the summit I put on a vest and arm/knee warmers. Chris was nowhere in sight and I was somewhat non-plussed by the appearance of a long stretch of sun-drenched false flat a few minutes down the hill. It did allow me to take a few photos of Mount St. Helen's from the bike before"testing the limits of tire adhesion"™ on the descent to the next control where Chris was pulling out as I came in.

Re-united and re-fortified with a Crispy Creme donut from Susan Goodison, we set out to tackle Oldman Pass. It turned out to be the Anti-Elk Pass. Steeper, straighter, hotter and shorter to start, and flatter, straighter and cooler to finish. The downhill after the climb was better. We flew through flowing corners and while the mid-trail geometry of my bike did not allow me to change lines mid apex to avoid cracks in the pavement, I was thankful that my wide volume Exra-Leger tires made those cracks all but disappear beneath me.

At the base of the descent we began to follow a tributary river down to Carson in the Columbia River Gorge and I went into "Smell the Barn" mode. I was using the slight downhill grade to take long 30+km/h pulls with thoughts of a gas station micro-brew adult recovery drink dancing along in front of me. The only portable option in the gas station across from the Carson sawmill was Long Hammer IPA, but it made for a nice refreshing drink as we showered and changed at the Carson Hot Springs Resort(!). We were roomed with Nigel and Ryan (Nigel was crushed that the hot tub on our deck was not operational) and they encouraged me to wear the room's bathrobe to dinner so I did--inducing a round of laughs and comparisons to Heff a famous magazine owner often photographed in his robe or pyjamas.

Dinner was chilli and a baked potato bar and soon we were asleep and hoping to actually stick to the plan and ride a little more conservatively the next day.

#Training4VanIsle #CanAmMedal #spiritedriding #tastefortheeffort


Slide show...

So Malou's cousin got us a Sony Action cam for our wedding and the cascade was the first time I tried it out. We want to make a moving montage of the VanIsle but will need a better power supply solution to get more action…

As it is I was taking a picture every minute most days up to the first control. I've set each day to music (usually bluegrass!) and I will submit them for the bottom of my ride reports. The first day the case fogged up but the other days are pretty cool. Watch for Ryan pulling away on the climb followed by the bike in the grass at the nature break!

Day 1 Slideshow (2:54)

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June 29, 2014