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My First 1200
Cascade 1200 - 2014 Review
by David King

Day 1 – Monroe to Carson June 21

By the time the early ride antics were sorted out (who was going to be riding where they were going to be riding) we were roughly 100km into the event. A group of 7 formed: 2 from San Fransisco, 2 from Seattle, 1 from Vancouver Washington, and 2 of us from Vancouver BC (Theo Wyne was the other BC rider). We rode together to the 150k mark, and at the control town, the group split up. I went into the grocery store and got beans and greens. The greens were a bunch of parsley, which made it to the top of my food bag, and served as a snack for the next 2 days.

When I left town on my own, I was doing some second guessing as to my route choice….did that say turn right or left? You would think that with 87 other riders out there, someone would catch up to you or you would catch up to someone. But that was not the case here. I rode a great distance with the worry of bonus ‘k’s’, yet when I arrived in the next control town of Randle, all was good. A number of riders had tied the reins of their faithful steeds next to the shady edge of the only watering hole in town, and were having their control cards signed while they purchased and consumed many of the exotic foods to be found in your local gas station/grocery store. The folks I had been riding with came in around the same time as I did; a few behind and a few ahead of me. Dave Robertson appeared, riding a strong ride.

I left the store on my own and rode very briefly with a fellow from California (David Hartson?). As we started to climb the first pass of the day, this fellow told me of the types of riding he liked. Climbing was right up there on the list, and so it came to pass that I watched his wheel pull away from me as we went up. I did not see him again on the ride, but should look him up and see how he fared, as there were a number of other climbs to come that day, and the following three days. The climb itself was very nice, in a mature forest with lots of shade. The next rider to pass me caused me to look at my tires, thinking that perhaps (hopefully) the air pressure may have been the cause. More on this later. I watched this Seattle rider walk away from me also. Alright, I am not the fastest climber, but I am not too bad. What is happening here? Oh well, up I go, slow and steady, as there are still at least 900km left to ride.

Keith Fraser and I met up somewhere along this stretch and rode together. He had departed the route we were riding as he was completing a 1000km version and he had put in an extra 40km earlier today already. We rode together for a while and there were a few other riders who came in and out but we arrived at the 2nd last control of the day, which was some sort of little campsite area on the edge of a town. There were a number of riders departing/arriving as I refueled at this stop.

Keith and I left together and when we came to the first long climb, he rode on and I rode my steady, but slower, pace up a long gradual climb. By the time we reached the top of this pass, the evening was approaching, yet I suspected we had some sort of descent and then a run out to the control town of Carson on the Columbia River. It was on the descent where dusk was turning dark and it was time to turn on the lights. It was a long gradual descent into Carson and I was riding with two riders, a man and woman, from Washington state. We had been playing leapfrog the last 100km, and we knew we were closing in on the first overnight sleep.

By the time we got to Carson, I was feeling strong; in need of a shower, meal and good nights sleep, but overall pretty good. I chose the meal first, so I would have time to digest while I was showering and prepping for the next day. I had a massage as well after the meal, and that was great, though not super comfortable as I was laying on my somewhat distended belly, post dinner. I set up with the organizers to have Dave Robertson as my roommate, and I did not suspect he was a long ways behind me. I fell asleep somewhere between 11 and 1130, bike ready to go for day two. I would pump up my tires in the morning, just before getting on the road. More about my tire when I start day two.

I was fast asleep when awoken by someone trying to use the card key to get in my room. I probably would not have heard them but the card key was not working. They knocked on my door. I noticed it was 230 in the morning. I opened the door and a San Francisco randonneur, looking rather bedraggled and tired, rolled in. I later found out his name was Phil Auriemma, but at this time I was just feeling sorry for this guy who was going to be lucky to get 2-3 hours sleep. He grabbed a shower and took the rollout cot. I was back to sleep when what should happen? You guessed it; somebody else came looking for a room. It was now 3am and I was thinking it might have been good to get a room with other roommates right off the bat. This guy was now going to be lucky to get 1-2 hours sleep. He passed on having a shower. He passed on removing any clothing. He just lay down in the kingsize bed, where I had already been sleeping for 4 hours. We both fell asleep immediately and the next thing, my alarm was going off at 4 am. Time to get up and do it all over again.

Day 2

Well, after that disjointed sleep, I woke to a beautiful dawn. Dawn does come early on June 22 in the northern hemisphere. I pumped up my tires (one was quite low pressure), got some food in my belly and was ready to be out the door in about 1 hour. Dave Robertson had seen me at breakfast and we agreed to ride together, but when it was time to go, he was nowhere in sight.

I rolled out, warming up on the big hill from the parking lot to the main road, as other riders were slowly departing Carson. The first part of the ride was a quick downhill to the Columbia River. It was magical riding up the river; very few cars, almost as many trains. The sun was biding its’ time behind the horizon, and I knew what lay in store when it would soon peak above the mountains to the east. I was able to look across to the south shore of the Columbia, to Oregon state, and make out the odd car driving in the other state. I hooked up with a rider whose name remains unknown and we clipped along at a smooth and steady pace. We overtook a group of 7 riders and then caught Dave Robertson somewhere in there and he jumped in with us. We passed a few more riders before we came into a rest area pullout. We ate some food, took care of the necessities and were quickly about to pull out when I spotted a rider going past us at the turnout. I was not sure who it was, and another rider identified him as “Theo”. I had met Theo Wynne, another BC randonneur, on day 1 when we had ridden together somewhere in the first 100km. I yelled his name before he got out of hearing range. Theo stopped and waited for Dave Robertson and I to catch up. It was then that I realized it wasn’t Theo Wynne, but a Seattle randonneur who just happened to have the same first name. He was also the rider who had blown by me on the first pass on day one, the one who made me look like I was standing still.

The three of us rode together along the Columbia and into the turn up from the Columbia River into a side valley. At this point, we were a group of six or seven, having met a few others along the way. The pace was a bit less than what I was hoping to do, and I was not sure how and when I was going to pull away from the group. The ride itself was still beautiful and cool, as we were heading up the east side of this valley, still protected from the golden orb which was doing its’ best to crest the ridge above us. The river was gorgeous, meandering down the valley, a soft breeze blowing with it. Very peaceful. Then Ryan Golbeck and Nigel Press blew by us. It was too funny how fast they were going. Perhaps they did the old “let’s pass these guys really quick” spoof. That is where you may slowly be catching up with somebody, but just as you are about ready to pass, you pick up the pace to a really fast clip and then blow by that person(s) so quick that you just leave them, drop jawed and wondering “how could I be travelling so slow?” It worked, as they seemed to be going really fast.

Theo jumped out and attempted to catch them. I jumped out too, quite certain I wouldn’t be catching them. I had ridden the 600 Cache Creek pre-ride with Nigel, mainly because he let me. I might have caught them, had their path stayed on the uphill and mine miraculously flattened or turned to a slight downhill. Theo managed to catch their wheel, though I found out later that rode with them for a limited time before he thought it might be wiser not to maintain that pace. I did not catch them, but I did manage to break away from the group I was with, so off I went at my pace.

It was not long before I hit the first ascent, just up Bowman Creek from the junction of the Bowman and the Klickitat Rivers. It was so cool; one big switchback across the creek and then climb, climb, climb. I could look back down and see riders coming along the valley flats before the switchback and start of the climb. I was not sure if any of them were riders I had been with and if they were going to stay behind me or if they were other riders who may be catching up to me. I found out soon enough that a few of the riders were about to pass me. Actually a good number passed me. A group of three very strong riders first. Chris Cullum and John Oswald passed me later on this climb, up near the top (flats) so I managed to stay with them for a while (read hang on). I saw Ed Person somewhere up top on the flats for the first time on this ride. Chris, John and I rode into the control together at Goldendale. Ryan and Nigel had already left, with the group of 3 who passed me on the hill. Apparently this was Chris Ragsdale, Mick Walsh and Del Scharffenberg; a group I would later coin the “express train”.

The day was getting hot now here in sunny Goldendale, and we left as a pair, Theo Roffe and myself. The terrain was small rollers and we were making good time. Then we met somewhere with Chris Cullum and John Oswald and continued as a group of 4. I always had in the back of my mind that I should stop and change out the tube on the back wheel. I knew there had to be a slow leak, but I was loathe to stop and change it. Silly. Very silly.
We had another long climb and it was really hot by now. By the next control at Bickelton, I was feeling a little bedraggled. I had changed into my long sleeve full neck dress shirt to hopefully keep the sun from beating down on neck and arms. I still felt my legs were fatigued and couldn’t figure out why. Others at the control said the same thing, so we either had been on a slow climb or there was a minor headwind. Or both.

The next 30km was very nice; rollers, little traffic and a group of 4 to trade pulls with. When we started to descend into the Yakima valley, the heat became noticeably present. It got really hot!! To make matters hotter, the road surface was a beautifully resurfaced black,heat-absorbing piece of asphalt that made me want for a nice cool refreshing mountain stream. The others were off ahead of me and I had no desire or ability to maintain their pace.

This was the one point on the ride where I thought of stopping the ride. Here is dilemma when this happens….I would still have to get back to the start. So, the idea of DNF’ing never really comes into my thoughts. But it was grossly hot as I pulled into the next control at the aptly named town of Sunnyside. At the fine dining establishment of the (insert gas station name here) I anticipated ordering a delicious fresh home-made sandwich. Instead I picked up the pre-wrapped questionably-dated sandwich, made of course without love. There was not a lot of choice, but who knows how long the food festers in the gas stations of America? The first bite told me it had been there a little bit too long. The taste of mold is not appealing any time, and it was especially so on this hot day. I ate the sandwich anyways, partly because I wanted to ride out with the group, partly because I didn’t think there was much else in the way of choice, and partly because I knew I had to get some food in me to keep my energy up.

We rode off as a group of four once again and soon caught up with Ken Bonner. We now had a very long and gradual climb out of the Yakima valley. As we neared what I was hoping would be the crest of the climb, we came upon a series of long rollers. My energy was very low and I was having trouble maintaining the pace of the group. At one uphill I got very very fatigued and knew it was time for a rest. The sun was heading towards the west. I was in a large road cut, with steep gravel banks, and I sat on the road edge, eating a bunch of trail mix and a few other items. I positioned myself close to an overshooting agricultural sprinkler, so that I could get a bit of cool breeze and mist without getting soaking wet. Ken Bonner and/or Ed Person passed me as I sat there, but I was quite content to just sit and recover.

After about 20-25 minutes, I felt pretty good and knew I was strong enough to ride. Within 100 metres, I saw these beautiful cherry trees just over the fence line, loaded with red juicy cherries. I think had I bonked another 100 metres past my stop point, I would have cleaned off one of these cherry trees before getting back on the bike. The top of the ‘pass’ came not long after, and now the sun was getting almost at the western horizon. The temperatures had dropped to really reasonable and I was feeling very good.

The next valley, being the finish portion of the day two ride, was a long flat stretch with minimal route finding. I still was a slight bit turned around with my sense of where I was headed. I had not looked at the map overly carefully, and never having been here before, it was hard to anticipate where I might be turning as the daylight turned to dusk and then to dark. I was easily about 1.5 hours on this long stretch, but with the cooler nighttime temperatures, I truly felt as though I could carry on through the night if I had to.

I eventually rolled into Ephrata at 10pm and found out I was the 10th rider to arrive. Not so bad considering that leak in the front tire, which I probably should have changed on my arrival. But I didn’t. Instead I ate dinner, a strategy I will use for future multi-day rides, as “dinner first” means time for digestion while showering and prepping for the next days ride.

Day 3

Ed Person and I shared a room last night, and then Dave Robertson joined us as well. I chose to sleep between the 2 beds as I did not want to be woken by (or wake) others. Not to say that the first night was what was causing me to feel this way. Not at all!!! I had a great 5 hours of sleep (11-4) and was feeling strong and ready to ride upon waking. Getting everything as ready as possible the night before means I wake up, dress for riding and immediately go to find food. Once breakfast is out of the way, I put some additional food (found at breakfast) onto my bike, brush my teeth, add sunscreen, put my drop bag with the van and then, just before go time, I pump up the tires. Especially that same tire that has the same slow leak as it did yesterday. Funny how it still is leaking?

The ride out of Ephrata is quiet as it is early morning. Some riders have left before me, but I am definitely one of the early birds. I start a long gradual uphill, about 12km in length, and notice that my knee is a bit sore. I ride easily up the climb, as I still have the distance to cover. I pop an ibuprofen at the top of the climb, and it provides immediate psychological satisfaction. Possibly some anti-inflammatory properties as well.

As I start down the downhill side (every up must have a down, unless of course we have to factor in headwinds), another train passes by me. This was a familiar train which I recognized from the day before. Only now they passed me on a slight decline, as opposed to the steep incline which they had overtaken me on day two. I told them to ride on ahead as I was just going to maintain a nice steady pace to make sure my knee was okay. Of course by the time I finished this sentence, they were already 100 metres ahead of me. The terrain was wide open, so I could see how much distance they were putting between us. And that distance grew very quickly. This was the lead group on this ride, and, to make myself feel better, I decided they must be a lead group on any ride they do. Ryan Golbeck and Nigel Press rode with them much of the ride, and the 5 of them eventually finished up the Cascade 1200 together. Anyway, back to day three.

I rode through Moses Coulee, and it was very cool indeed! Agriculture is big in the valley bottom, but the walls of the coulee are very interesting, filled with birds nests. They remind me of the basalt columns on the way up to Whistler.

I was still enjoying the cooler morning weather, knowing it would soon inevitably change to sunny and warm. Ok, really hot! I took a left on highway 20 and proceeded up an incline and was caught up by a group of other riders, including Chris Cullum and John Oswald and Theo Roffe. We rode into the control at Farmer together. The control was in an old community hall; very neat setting. And did I mention it was nice and cool inside? Arriving later in the day I would imagine it would be very hot. Bananas and yogurt and cookies all went down very easily. Chris, John and I rode off again.

I cannot remember exactly where, but at some point in the morning we caught up with Ken Bonner. He was busy swatting at some flying insect that was buzzing around him. It looked quite comical from a distance because there was no insect to see. The kilometres rolled and rolled.

We rode down to the Columbia River at a town named Bridgeport, and I had one of the best gas station burgers ever made in this world. It was so good I wanted a second one. But, being so good, the gas station was sold out. I thought I would get a chicken burger instead, knowing I was working against the odds here, as one item at a gas station that tastes good is amazing, while two such items means “where do you keep the lottery tickets”? True to form, the chicken burger was a deep fried little morsel, destined to repeat throughout the ride, and I was saddened at the thought of eating it. I took it back to the counter, after already having salted it, and I think the attendant must have seen the sadness in my eyes, as they exchanged with me burger for money. I was relieved.

I was craving fresh fruit from a fruit stand. I had seen orchards, but no fruit sold at roads edge, so onwards I rode. The heat was now climbing and we rode on towards the town of Mallott, also the start of the climb up Loup Loup Pass. The temperature in the sleepy little town of Mallott was a cool 41 celsius. Luckily there was no shade to be found, as that would have really put a damper on the nice warm weather. I was glad this was June and not July or August.

As John, Chris and I, along with Ken Bonner at this point, started the climb up Loup Loup, we quickly broke into three groups. Chris and John rode ahead, while Ken and I rode as singles up the pass. I slowly ground up the hill, and as I climbed higher, the only shade to be found was on some sporadic little patches of road edge, and it was all on the wrong side of the road. The traffic was moderate, so when I had a chance, I would dart over to the left side of the road if the shade was present. This made it somewhat cooler, but I couldn’t be there often enough (road too curvy or blind corners or traffic oncoming) so I just rode up the hill. That is really what it was all about; just ride.

At one point, I saw the telltale signs of a water source. I had been looking for some sort of creek, but never knowing the true water source, one does run the chance of an intestinal parasite hitching a ride. I did see a spigot eventually at the side of the road, with a crude little boardwalk of 2x10’s leading up to it. I used this as a sign that other people drank the water, therefore it must be safe. Then I pictured a bunch of people, sick as dogs, as they had all believed the same thing and filled their bottles in haste. Actually I never thought this, but it is kind of a funny image, especially when one is climbing up a hot mountain pass.

At the top of the pass, there was signage which posted how many deer had been killed in the previous years and the total cost to the people involved in these crashes. It did not say anything about the cost to the deer. Perhaps deer don’t track such stats.

The ride down from Loup Loup was steep in sections and I was quite happy to limit my speed, still thinking of the somewhat slow leaking tire. I really did not want to wipe out. When I reached the bottom of the descent, the road turned to the right and headed up the next river valley.

Even though I had descended to a lower elevation, I had gotten away from the real heat of the Okanagan. The river valley I was ascending (Methow) was gorgeous. I rode past a park that had a beautiful bunch of big deciduous trees. The water looked very inviting, as did the shade from the trees, but I knew I was within the end of the ride for day three, and would be much happier prolonging the gratification of getting off the bike and chilling. But it was tempting!

I came across some road work in progress. The crew was just in the process of pouring some hot asphalt and then spreading and rolling it flat. I knew I should have gone around, walking up the road edge, but I chose not to. I had rocks stuck to my tires until I reached the town of Winthrop. My instinct was to keep riding, but I heard John and Chris call from a little storefront on the left hand side of the road. It was the ice cream shop. Yes! I pulled over, rocks still stuck on my tires, making for a bumpy entrance. John and Chris were just finishing up their ice cream as I got my cone of yumminess. I savored that one and then used some paper towels to help take the rocks off the tires.

The tires clean, I pumped up the slow leak with my hand pump, just for the sake of it really. The rest of the ride was continuing up the river valley and I rolled into Mazama just after 5pm. This was such a reasonable finish time. I think I was 10th in on day three. I was beginning to see a pattern here. About that leaky tire…… I have been measuring it as 20 psi in the mornings before I pump it up for the start of the days ride. But now, at the end of day three, I have so much free time, I think I will fix it right now! Not. I just sat on a chair, ate some food, prepped everything else on the bike except that slow leak, watched as Ken Bonner arrived, and then left again to continue his ride throughout the night. I went to bed around 820 pm. I did not sleep right away. Maybe the tire was bugging me. Maybe it was too warm. Maybe I was excited about day four.

Day 4

Day four started earlier than even I had anticipated. I woke at 0245, a full 30 minutes before the alarm was set to go. I made my way to the great little lodge through the trees on this forested property we were staying on. Theo and I had shared a room, as I had no desire for other riders to be knocking on the door throughout the night. There was only the one bed, and I chose to sleep on the floor. There was also another pattern developing here. I just wanted to be sure I had a restful sleep and did not want to worry about being woken by another, or waking them with my rolling around. My snoring might have woken them, regardless if I was in the same bed, or the same room, or even the same town. I believe my wife would attest to this. Anyways, a really delicious breakfast waited for us in the lodge, and there may have been a few riders leaving ahead of us, but not that many. We had a bit of rain overnight, and as it was still dark and forested, it was hard to tell if we were in for a wet day. I pumped up my tires (more air in the front please) and was hoping I was not going to flat out on the last day, especially if there was a chance of rain. I just really wanted to finish the ride and deal with mechanicals afterwards.

The evening before, Dave Robertson and I agreed we would ride together on day four. He and I left at 4am, in a mild drizzle. I was so excited that I got to try and out the new rain jacket and the super hero booties (yellow, no less) I had purchased prior to this ride. I really do enjoy the rain, so I have no problem riding in it at any time. Dave and I had ridden fairly close times on days 1-3 of the Cascade, and he was pulling in no more than an hour after me each night, so we figured we would be good company for each other on day four. We had been on the road perhaps 20 minutes before the express train passed us. This time it was all five of them: Chris, Mick, Del, Ryan and Nigel. We insisted they carry on and not wait for us; told them that we may have to stop and stretch a lot. They understood and the train carried on. The climb up Washington Pass meant lots of clothing changes. It got colder as we got higher, but we were staying warm because of the climb. It would be the descent where more clothing would be beneficial. I did not want to sweat it out on the ascent, only to get cold on the descent. So, gloves on, gloves off, zips open, zips closed, gear up, gear down. Washington Pass looked familiar to me, partly because of the photos on the Seattle Randonneurs website, partly because of the other photos I had googled of it before I left. The big difference was no snow. The snow pack had ben light over winter, and there was nothing at all in the pass. Because it captures so much water, I could see how they would have a huge snowpack up here.

Near the top of the pass, we were passed by John Oswald, Keith Fraser and Chris Cullum. They moved off ahead, and I think they could sense the finish line in sight. Our descent from the pass included a bit of time riding with Theo Roffe again, but we parted ways at a control not far from the summit of Rainy Pass.

The next section through the Cascades was beautiful; dry, cool and cloudy, with some amazing lakes and rivers, with a consistent downhill grade the whole way. Our next control town was Marblemount and the day was starting to show promise of sunnier weather. I took the opportunity to pump the tires at Marblemount as a volunteer drove through and had a great floor pump. I could use those extra psi’s. Dave Robertson and I traded off leads as we continued our descent to the Skagit River Valley.

We crossed the river at Concrete and headed along the south bank of the Skagit River, tires still holding. We saw our first rider in quite a while, except for a number of them at the Marblemount control. We pulled off the “wait till you get close and then pass with great speed’ trick. Actually we didn’t do that, but the rider was riding a lot slower than we were. I looked back after a few minutes and he was right on our back wheel. Perfect. The more the merrier I say.

His name was Daniel and he was from Perth Australia. He had a bicycling racing history, and in many ways his riding style reminded me of Colin, a friend of mine, who can’t be passed by another rider. If a rider passes, Colin will chase them and catch them and then leave them behind. No questions, no exceptions. If Colin sees a rider in the distance, he will chase them until he catches them, pass them and leave them behind. No questions, no exceptions. I wonder what it would be like to go for a ride with Colin and Daniel? Actually it would just be a short ride as they raced off into the distance, perhaps exchanging leads, but I would be so far off the back I would have no idea. Colin, if you are reading this now, so are many other randonneurs, so you have to come out for a 200 in 2015.

Back to the Cascade 1200 home stretch. Daniel was a very strong rider and we took turns sharing the lead on the way down the valley. We rode right past the last control to a group of people cheering us on. They were just being nice, and even though they had a connection to some of the randonneurs, they did not know about getting cards signed at controls. 500 metres later, we figured out we had passed the control and doubled back. We got our cards stamped, and grabbed a meal as this would be the last one before the end of the ride.

The last part of the Cascade was beautifully designed. Much of the last 50km was along a cyce/walk path. It was stress free; no cars, buses and trucks to worry about. Well, stress free for most of us. If another rider was ahead of us or passed us, Daniel was chomping at the bit to chase them down, much as I thought he had done when we passed him. It was funny to watch. One rider, as we naturally closed the gap on him, all of a sudden realized he was about to be overtaken, and he put the hammer down. Daniel gave chase. I had nothing extra left and if Daniel was going to ride off, I was quite happy to just spin into Monroe. Dave Robertson appeared to be thinking the same, as did another rider, Jeff, from Vancouver Washington. Daniel did come back. He had chased hard enough and decided to wait for the group.

We picked up another SIR rider (not a participant of this 1200) and he rode with us for many kilometres to the end. Daniel, Jeff, Dave Robertson and myself came in two minutes after Ed Person to yet another very enthusiastic group of volunteers at the finish line. And then there was pizza. And then there was sleep. The sleep during the ride felt more than adequate, though I had no problem going to bed on this post-ride night at 9 pm and not moving from by bed until 7 am the next morning.

No bumps or bruises, I felt strong throughout the ride, except for the little bit of heat disruption on day two. The finale was one of happiness. I was happy to have ridden a strong ride. I was happy to have planned reasonably well, considering I was not aware of how I might fare, never having ridden a 1200. I rode my ride. In looking back at my anticipated daily finishing times, I was within 15-60 minutes each night. I was not terribly physically fatigued. I was totally pleased with my first 1200 and was already looking forward to the VanIsle 1200. I was also happy that the tire never went flat….completely. Next time I promise myself I will stop and change slow leaking tires.

The one thing I realized about these long rides is that planning is important, and it is easier to plan if you plan for the different weather that may come your way over a 4 day period of riding through a few different biogeoclimatic zones. Aside….. I had been trying to figure out where I could get a multi-syllabic word like that one in, and managed to squeak it in with only one paragraph to go.

So that is my story of my first 1200. I really enjoyed the Cascade event, and really appreciated the work put in by SIR to make it a top notch event. I also enjoyed meeting a number of other riders, spending some time riding and chatting with them. I look forward to returning to do that ride in the near(est) future.

December 27, 2014