Over the last couple of years, to break up the racing calendar, I've picked out one organized citizen ride to participate in. Two years ago I did RAMROD and last year it was the Death Ride down in Markleyville, CA. This year I had no plans on doing anything other than racing.
I'm guessing that there are not too many cyclist in the NW that don't know about this epic ride but for the few that don't, RAMROD stands for Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day. I've also heard some change the ending to "Or Die!" It runs through Mt. Rainer National Park and gives you some of the most spectacular views of the mountain and its surroundings that you can experience on a bike. Some don't enjoy the views as this ride is an epic 154 miles with 10,000+ ft. of climbing. It's not something for the weekend warrior. The number of participants is limited to 800 but because probably three times that number that want to ride, a lottery was developed to narrow it down. The lottery is done in March. At the last minute, many, for tons of reasons, decide they can't or don't want to ride and their number should go to someone on the waiting list. Earlier in the week some guys who were doing the ride asked if I got in. I told them I didn't even sign up. Then one of them asked, "Do you want to?" I thought about it and told him that I didn't. The first Seattle Velo Circuit race was scheduled for Saturday and I really wanted to do well in the State Individual TT Championships on Sunday. Later that day I was still thinking about it and then found out that the circuit race was rescheduled for the following week. I emailed him back and the next thing you know I had a number in my hand. I wasn't sure why I made the decision but what the hell. I'd ridden it three times in the past and had always done well. This year, though, I hadn't done any long distance training and the only reason I'd ridden a distance close to a century this year was because the Olympic View Road Race was 92 miles. I would just ride easy and save my legs for the tt on Sunday......yeah right!!
I got homefrom work Wednesday night and replaced my deep dish tubulars with a set of sturdy clinchers and 12X27 Cassette. I was good to go.
I rolled into Enumclaw at 4:30 in the blessed am and got ready to roll. It was only about 52 degrees and a heavy, misty fog had rolled into the area. I had to make a decision about what to wear. I wanted to travel light so the only extra clothing I put on were arm warmers. I would deal with the morning cold and not drag around a bunch of extra clothing when it warmed up. I was going to start off with a group of friends on the Lakemont squad who are all strong climbers. The plan was to roll out at 5:30 but when you have that many guys trying to get organized it's hard to stay on schedule but we managed to get roll out at around 5:45. I needed some motivations so I decided I was going to try to match my finish time of just over eight hours that I did on the ride two years ago.
It was just starting to get light out and the mist was still in the air. It was cool but not too bad. Right away we got in a 20 person pace line and we quickly were averaging near 28mph. The first 40 miles are almost completely flat or downhill. Guys quickly jumped on our train and it grew to almost 50. Most never did an ounce of work up front but that's how it goes. The first rest stop is in Eatonville, about 35 miles in. I didn't want to stop there but had to piss so bad that it wasn't an option. I grabbed a scone (yummy) and we were back on the road. This is where the first incline of note is on the ride We rode off through the crowds hanging around the rest stop. It got confusing and after a mile or so I looked back and it was only John B., Charlie, me and a guy from Byrne that had started with us. We figured the rest were just in the crowd and they would catch back up or we would wait for them at the 58 mile food stop at Wildwood. As we climbed out of Eatonville we caught Dave from Olympic Ortho. He had been riding hard by himself and was happy to have some company. We picked up a couple of guys on the way but they all eventually fell off after a couple of pulls. We saw two of my teammates, Angela and Jeff on the way and they were looking strong. By the time we got to the stop it was just Dave, John and me. This was my one planned food stop. It is right before you start the 12 mile climb up to Paradise and I wanted to make sure I was fueled up and stocked with fluids. We waited for the other guys but they never showed. We had been there longer than planned and we finally figured someone must have had a mechanical and pressed on.
We entered the park and just as we started climbing the sun came out for the first time. It felt nice. The three of us were flying up the hill, passing many of the riders that left at 5:00am. The climb is not that hard. It only averages about 4% to 6% and you can get in a good, comfortable rhythm. About five miles in Dave was hammering and John and I couldn't hold his wheel. John and I settled into a slightly slower pace and stayed together. For some reason they didn't let us climb all the way to Paradise and had us turn just below. One climb down.
We were now at around the 5400 ft level and I was feeling really strong. We quickly grabbed water and headed down the 12 mile descent though Steven's Canyon. I like to descend and got in my tuck and started picking up speed. I don't think John was as comfortable with the speed and I didn't realize he was off the back until I hit the bottom. I waited for several minutes and then decided to keep going. I skipped the food and water stop at Upper Box Canyon and continued on solo. I think I was about 88 miles and it was kind of cool having the whole place to myself. There is one intermediate climb before you starting up Cayuse. It isn't very steep and only lasts about three miles. I didn't see a soul on this climb and for a few minutes thought I had missed a turn. I didn't really know I was on the right path until I reached the summit. I was still feeling great so I skipped the rest stop and pointed my bike downhill.
Next was the five mile descent that takes you out of the park and to Hwy 410. With no one on the road with me it was a blast. There were several hair pins, wide curves, and rollers throughout the descent. The road wasn't in great shape but I was able to pick my line and fly. When I got to 410 there was a guy just standing there with his bike. I asked him if he was OK and he just said that he didn't know which way to go. The turn wasn't marked with the familiar pink RAMROD Dan Henry's and there were no volunteers giving us directions. The sign pointed right to Yakima and Left to Seattle. I told him no mater what I didn't want to end up in Yakima so I tunred left. I looked back a few minutes later and almost turned around. I didn't see the guy behind me and I thought he knew something I didn't. I took one more look back and finally saw him. I forged on.
I finally stated heading up Cayuse. This is the steepest climb of the three and is totally in the sun. This was going to be a grind. Right before I started heading up a group of about eight riders were coming in the opposite direction. I waved and they yelled out that they had only passed a handful of people on their way down. Wow!!, that's cool and at least I knew I was having a good ridewhy I wasn't seeing other riders. Cayuse climbs up to around 4700 ft with varied gradients of 5%-10%. I was in a really nice groove and I after a while started seeing other riders in front of me. I used them to motivate me and started picking them off one by one and was averaging around 10mph. I was still feeling really good. About half way up I noticed that I was still riding in the shade. I always remember that this was the first time you really got battered by the sun and heat but the whole right side of the road was still in the shade. This was perfect!! A little farther up I came upon a water stop that I didn't know existed. It was right on the side of the road so I pulled off to top off my bottles. The volunteers were great and filled them up for me. I didn't even have to get off my bike. They told me only 12 people had gone by in front of me. I quickly got back into my rhythm and continued up. I was surprised how fast I reached the summit. The volunteers yelled "Great job!" as I went by.
I decided I was good for fluids and did not stop. There were a few cars in front of me and I was able to get behind them and draft all the way down. I was doing about 50mph the whole way. The Crystal Mt. turn off came up fast. I really wanted my made to order sando but I still had food in my pocket and didn't really want to stop. I only had about 32 miles to go. But......as many of you know, this last section can actually be tough, physically as well as mentally. It is mostly downhill but the head wind slaps you in the face hard and it can be demoralizing, especially when going at it solo. There was no one in front or behind me that I could hook up with. This was going to suck!! I got in the drops and just tried to keep a steady pace. This was the first time I actually felt like shit. I made sure to keep eating and drinking. After a few more miles I looked up and saw a guy up ahead. It was like seeing an oasis. Was he real? Can I catch him.....Please wait!! I increased my effort and caught him about five minutes later. It was like long lost brothers meeting for the first time...Well not quite like that but....Lets just say we were happy so see each other.
We introduced ourselves and started trading pulls. It was a huge relief. He told me he was at his limit and proabably couldn't help much. As long as he took short pulls I was happy. Short stints out of the wind were a big deal. I did most of the pulling and the going was tough. Dan hung tough and really worked hard when he was in front. It seemed the miles were ticking off slower than when I was climbing up to Cayuse. The legs were starting to burn... "Shut up Legs!" We finally came up to the Mud Mountain turn and getting on that back road actually helped. It was quiet, had no traffic and wind wasn't too bad. We picked up the pace. We hit the downhill section and all I thought about was the pain of going the opposite direction up that hill during the Enumclaw Stage race. I was glad to not be climbing it now. Dan finally had to sit up and once again I was solo.
Having him to work with really help me to recover. The legs were hurting but I decided to push hard. The sooner I got to the finish, the sooner I could stuff my face with ice cream . It was completely flat the rest of the way. I finally reached town and took the turn to the start/finish. I was done!! I rolled through to cheers from all the volunteers and was told I only the third person that had come through. WOW!!
I had set a goal, rode hard and finished in 7:42:20. It was by far my fastest time. It is all relative thought. I left at 5:40 and some that finished in front of may have started at 5:00. I'm guessing there were guys that slept in a little, left at 6:30 or alater and rode faster than I did. It doesn't really matter. I'm sure everyone out there achieved some personal goal they set and were just as happy as I was when they crossed the line. I'm sure the volunteers kept cheering until the last rider crossed the line. It's a great ride and it was a nice change from racing. It was the best I've felt during any previous RAMROD rides. Now I just need to recover for the State Time Trial Championships on Sunday. I met some great guys on the ride and the volunteers were all awesome. Here are the stats:
Distance: 148.17 mi
Elevation Gain: 11,160 ft
Calories: 6,588 C
Avg Temperature: 62.5 °F
ElevationElevation Gain: 11,160 ft
Elevation Loss: 11,156 ft
Min Elevation: 230 ft
Max Elevation: 4,898 ft
Heart RateAvg HR: 126 bpm
Max HR: 161 bpm
Avg HR: 68 % of Max
Max HR: 87 % of Max
Avg HR: 1.8 z
Max HR: 4.3 z
TemperatureAvg Temperature: 62.5 °F
Min Temperature: 50.0 °F
Max Temperature: 75.2 °F