|Newsletter - 2014 Archive|
Descending Secrets Unlocked, Your Best Season Ever
Rooming with SIR's Theo Roffe and Chris Cullum, I got even less sleep than the previous night. I just couldn't get comfortable. I was hot again and wasn't partial toward the pillow whilst sharing a bed with Theo….I tried the floor….then some couch cushions on the floor...and finally the bed with Chris and got to sleep for another couple of hours. Yes, I know all the PBP anciens are snickering about 'first world problems' and saying 'Wait 'til you try and sleep under a table at a control in Carhaix!'.
Look, I get it. You are not feeling sympathy towards my lack of sleep or towards my being uncomfortable during my SECOND night in a BED on a 1200.
I'm just sayin', that's all…
Breakfast was reasonable and after heading back to the room to put on our kit--the less time spent in chamois & shoes the better!--we got down to the lobby in short order only to discover technical difficulties with the Action Cam. After a bit of RTFM I got it going and we were off just in time to depart with Chris Ragsdale and Mick Walsh. Unfortunately, they pushed through a yellow that, in the interest of safety, we stopped for. So sadly, we lost them.
This year's route included a climb up Sagebrush Flats Road and the ride through Moses Coulee, which had been closed during the previous edition of the C1200. It was absolutely stunning. Ranchlands turned to wheat fields and then to glacial flood-carved coulee walls. All of this with gentle grades and smooth flowing downhills at sunrise... My cadence was now fully in synch with my bike and Chris and I were sliding past many of the early starters on the climb until we found a good rhythm with Hugh Kimball, an SIR member on a single speed and Dan, an Australian who we had spent some time with on the first day and whom we now referred to as "Mask of Pain" because no matter what the terrain, he was always bent over in the drops like he was battling headwinds on a solo breakaway. Hugh said he rode single speeds ever since he busted a derailleur 50km into a Flèche and still finished with only one gear. He liked it so much he got a new bike sans derailleurs.
After tapping out the rhythm for most of the sustained climb out of Ephrata and using my aero tuck to full advantage on the subsequent downhill, we began to share pulls heading into the coulee. Every time Mask of Pain took the lead there would be a surge of power that I would not match and then we'd gradually catch back up as the terrain reined him in. When we turned onto Hwy 2 after the coulee, I had to face the (actual) painful memories of riding up #2 with Keith Fraser and Nigel Press in the lead group of Cascade 1200 in 2012. It was here I began to suffer in The Fog of Fatigue alongside rampant truck traffic on what would be the hardest day of my first ultra brevet. This year it was a cruise (only later would I realize it was a different section of road!). The grade was gentle, the cars were few and the company was great. We joined forces with Dave King--once again riding in his familiar white Caps jersey with red and black trim--and powered over the top before cruising down to the first control at Farmer.
The control was in the town community hall and a still-functioning disco ball lent an 80's wedding reception vibe to the re-filling of bottles, the acquisition of bananas and the re-application of sun screen. Chris and I set out with Dave across the Columbia plateau for the final time on the C1200. It was more rolling in this northern section than yesterday's slow grinds, and a slight headwind made having a good group important. We shared the load equally as the day really began to heat up and at the top of one rise we could see the solitary figure of Ken Bonner thrashing at (what we assumed were) bees as he removed some layers of clothing. He raced onto the road just as we were about to crest the rise and on the downhill Chris asked if he got stung. Ken responded in the negative and said something about one getting into his vest before getting back into his aero bars and promptly dropping us. The rolling terrain suited his riding style nicely and we would not cross his path again until the sustained downhill toward Bridgeport on the Columbia.
After silently riding through grain fields dotted with glacial erratics and only Ken bobbing up and down on the horizon to entertain us for about an hour, we finally began to descend. When Dave mentioned that he wanted to get a little lower on the bike 'like you guys' to eke a little more speed out the downhills. Chris and I were hopeful that we'd have more success keeping the group together today. We'd lost Dave several times on downhills the previous day using our aero-tucks (the greatest single thing you can do to improve your speed on the bike) so this was a welcome development for all three of us. I watched him down the first descent; I could see he was making progress but that things were still sub-optimal. I suggested he get his elbows in a bit more and after that he didn't have too much trouble sticking with us. Who needs Bicycling Magazine's 'Descend Like a Pro' tips?!?
In Bridgeport, around the corner from yet another Columbia River hydroelectric dam, we stopped at a gas station because I needed to eat some "real food." Now, only in the course of a rando ride would things that you would not even consider eating when wearing civilian clothes--things like gas station pizza and mass produced, hormone-laden chocolate milk--be considered 'real food'. They were, however, just what I needed after pounding bananas, energy bars and dark chocolate-coated açai berries all morning. The other thing I needed was Tums. I'd glanced at a large jar of them in the Farmer Disco, remembering my heartburn on Day 3 last time, but I hadn't yet felt the gut rot and didn't have a way of carrying them so I passed. One energy bar later, I was feeling the burn. I bought a small roll of raspberry flavoured extra-strengths and they did the job for the next two days; I will carry a roll on Van Isle…
Before I got up for the Tums, Dave was commenting on how much he was enjoying his convenience store burger (I mean, you know how good, 'real food' tastes in the middle of the ride, right?) and that he was going to have another. When I came back from the washroom, Chris said we were good to go as soon as Dave had returned his burger. I though this was code for him being in the toilet but Chris said Dave was asking for a refund. I stepped out to turn over my route sheet and mentioned to a couple of SIR guys what was taking place inside. They laughed and said he'd be lucky to not get it back on his face but when Dave came out he was relieved to report that they had taken it back. Wow. Not only can this man ride all day in a dress shirt and descend like a pro but he can even convince convenience store employees to give refunds!
We continued west for 16km along WA 173 until we reached the bridge in Brewster. Dave was now taking long and strong pulls and I joked that his first burger must have been made with Contador's 'tainted beef'! In this section we passed through a cherry orchard that was a hive of migrant worker energy. It seemed like hundreds of (mostly) hispanic pickers with large buckets strapped to their necks were scaling or carrying ladders between the narrowly spaced rows of trees. The rest flailed about the highest limbs in a frenzy to harvest the heavily laden branches before their fruits fell to the grass below. Despite the oppressive heat, they all had heavy sweaters and coveralls (but no eyewear) to protect them from the branches. Crates of cherries, ready to be hauled to market, sat on the side of the road around the corner from a school bus eerily similar to the one we saw the previous day in Vernita. It was a scene straight out of The Grapes of Wrath (not that one, this one!) except I didn't see any rail car housing and the 'Okies' were probably not from Oklahoma. It also kinda' put all the whining about sleeping problems in perspective.
Climbing up from Brewster we were now headed for Malott and although it felt like we should be doing 30+km/h on the slight downhill, we were, in fact, getting nowhere fast. This left time to contemplate the "No Tresspassen" signs and to attempt to translate "No Tirar Basura" We thought it might be"no fruit picking" but using a popular search engine's Spanish-to-English translating application yields: "no throwing garbage" or more likely: No Dumping.
Upon arrival in Malott, at another unmanned control, we saw another rando eating a Klondike Bar and we followed suit. The fast boys had already cleaned out the V8 supply so I settled on a Snapple to change it up a bit. We were about to climb Loup Loup Pass (Elev 4020') and none of us was in a hurry to do it in the heat of the day. Ken pulled up and had a small tub of ice cream while Cody, who was counting out pennies in the shade, told us how as a member of the local first nation that straddled the border, he could cross into Canada without a passport by using his band ID card. I found this interesting so when he asked for contributions to the beer fund (and I suddenly realized why there was lonely tall boy of 9.7% beer sitting on the counter inside) I lightened my shrapnel load by approximately 47cents. He thanked me for putting him over the top and went happily on his way.
We left for the climb with Ken and he and I spoke while Chris and Dave chatted behind us. Ken talked about how Eric Fergusson, who was probably just finishing up the Cape Dissapointment 1000 as we pedalled, had quietly been collecting 1000's over his time in BC Randos and had done almost all of the local ones Ken knew of. I told him how I was using this ride as training for Malou's and my attempt at VanIsle and he wished us luck. Chris rode up to say his Garmin was reading 41.5C just before we turned onto SR-20 for the climb up to the ski area.
At this point it was every man for himself and there were riders all over the road. I got into a good spin and lead the charge but those first 5km were brutally hot. I sat up at one point, ostensibly to wait for Chris, but the truth was my right shin was starting to flare up again. It was a little sore the previous night in the last 45km when Chris and I were doing some spirited riding in to get to the overnight before dark. After the contrast baths in the motel pool and hot tub (try that on PBP!) it felt ok. Tibialis anterior pain had come and gone on a few rides during the spring series but this time…it wasn't going away. So as I passed a cabin with two bear skins drying on the side, I was just hoping to get through the day ok.
Chris and I passed Klondike Bar Guy in short order and took turns setting the pace as we alternated between surge and sag over the remaining 15km to the top. There was a lot of traffic on the road and the final 5km were more difficult than I remembered them being. I will always hold a special fond feeling in my memories of C1200 2014 for the guy who slowed and idled a bit so he could rev his Ford F-150 GMC Sierra ("Bulit Ram Tough!") diesel engine hard enough to blow a thick cloud of tar on us a few miles from the top--a stunt, I'd just learned in the days before the ride, that is known as "Rollin' Coal".
We'd long since lost sight of Ken, Dave and Klondike Bar Guy when the pass sign came into sight. I feigned reaching for a water bottle so Chris would think he could cruise to the KOM points and then, despite the stabbing pain in my shin, I sprinted past when he let his guard down. We downed a banana each and drank the last of our water to celebrate the pass and then gave our backs a break by sitting up for most of the descent. There really was no need to throw caution to the wind or to take all manner of risks at that point. The C1200 wasn't going to be won on that descent but it certainly could have been lost.
In Twisp, at the bottom of the hill, we pulled into a rare strip mall (Twisp had a surprisingly strong organic food co-op vibe) to get a gallon jug of water at the supermarket and snickered at the Ullrich Pharmacy--although secretly we were both wishing for some of former Tour 'winner' Jan's pharmaceutical expertise at this point. In the store I took about 10 minutes to find the water and the V-8s due to Confused Biker Syndrome--a condition that can take hold due to lack of sleep, dehydration or low blood glucose levels.
Once back on the road I was dismayed to note that the route sheet kept us on the highway instead of the low stress side road of the last edition of the C1200. I was even more non-plussed when we had to wait almost another 10 minutes, baking in the sun, for road construction. The freshly-laid asphalt sprayed pellets all over our fenders and (due to a lack of fender flaps--they had blown off on the drive down to Monroe) also sprayed into my face. With bits of asphalt stuck to the optimized rubber compound of our supple, large volume tires, our ride quality suffered a bit in this section and I began to lose focus on my surroundings. Because we had entered into Winthrop from a different route, I was worried we'd missed the Wild West facade tourist strip and thus the ice cream stop I'd been talking (and daydreaming) about all day.
I told the guys on the climb to the coulee in the morning that we were riding for the ice cream...
Just before the final turn for the overnight in Mazama the wood-framed oasis came into sight. I was hoping for a micro-brewed adult recovery beverage as well but, with the options limited, Chris and I settled on a double scoop of 'Home Made Blackberry' for a brief, creamy-smooth vacation from the heat of the highway. Speaking of adult recovery beverages, I mentioned to Chris at this point that I was more than a little surprised that the brand of recovery drink on offer at the previous overnight of the CASCADE 1200 was…Alaska(!?!). I know that if Vancouver Island route co-ordinator Mike Croy was in charge of the overnight controls on the C1200 that all adult recovery beverages would have a sense of place (Rainier, Klickitat Pale Ale, St. Helen's Brewing, Methow Valley Brewing etc) and I'm fairly certain that if/when we finish the VanIsle 1200, Vancouver Island adult recovery drinks will feature prominently in the celebration.
As we polished off the last of our cones, Dave cruised around the corner toward Mazama and we yelled him down to get his ice cream. Ed was next but moving too fast to catch and we felt bad because:
Even though neither of us was really feeling what the French call "le gout de l'effort" (a taste for the effort), it wasn't that bad and we got to the rustic resort in reasonable time. On arrival there were camping chairs, Freemont Brewing of Seattle recovery drinks and lots of chips. There was even more ice cream. Chris and I both chose salted caramel (for the electrolyte replacement) and each received enough to feed three riders. Chris ended up giving half of his to Dave when he came in. Nigel said his ride that day was fuelled almost exclusively by ice cream.
Dinner was a good spaghetti feed and there was a lot of fish tales about the previous three days of riding while we ate. Chad had DNF'd after Mattawa. Theo Wyne had busted an axle and also had to withdraw on Day 2. Ron Himschoot had arrived at the overnight control in Ephrata at 6:30 that morning…
We got into the heavily chlorinated hot tub for a bit after dinner and Ryan Golbeck shared photos of himself in a hammock and of us in the tub on a popular social media site stating that this is how 1200's were supposed to be. I just hope Jan Heine doesn't 'friend ' him and see the photos…
#Training4VanIsle #CanAmMedal #spiritedriding #tastefortheeffort
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July 3, 2014