Tag Archives: Seattle to Portland

Countdown to STP

Time flies! It seems like just the other day I was barely starting to get comfortable riding my bike again after many months of focusing on marathon training. Suddenly Seattle to Portland (STP) is only a week away.

STP is 206 miles. That’s two back-to-back centuries, roughly 103 miles each day!

I’m riding my bike daily, averaging about 35 miles a day over the past few weeks. However, I haven’t been able to do enough of the really long training rides that I’d hoped to do. I’ve only done three rides over 50 miles. There simply haven’t been enough spaces on the calendar to fit in enough long rides.

The other day CFL and I finally managed to ride a significant distance together… 71 miles. Not the 90+ miles I’d wanted to do to feel confident that I can ride 100 miles, but it will have to do. We finished our ride feeling good. I’m further buoyed by the fact that we did that ride just two days after we rode up to Hurricane Ridge.

The road up to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park (which we locals call “backyard national park”)is considered one of the classic cycling climbs in the country. From my house, it is 5,100+ feet of elevation gain in 19 miles. That’s a big deal, and I came though it feeling GREAT! I felt much better at the top than I did a year ago, when I’d given myself a 6-mile head start by driving up to the Olympic National Park gate rather than simply riding from home.

Coming down was kind of scary, though. Not because I didn’t feel confident of my ability to handle my bike at 30+ MPH on a narrow mountain road. My bike and I handled the curves just fine. The problem was that we went through a layer of fog/mist on the way down. The temperature plummeted and I started to shiver uncontrollably, which produced some interesting wobbles on the bike. I was actually experiencing mild hypothermia. We stopped at the campground at the park gate, where I held my hands under the hand dryer in the restroom for at least five minutes, until I could begin to feel them again and my shivering arms and legs settled down. From there I was able to safely ride the last 6 miles, bursting back into the sun just as we reached the city limits.

Lesson learned. No matter how warm the day may seem, I won’t ride up there again without carrying WARM layers for the ride down.

Anyway, at this point I’m about as ready for STP as I’m ever going to get. I figure that once we get on the road, we’ll be carried along by adrenaline and the combined energy of the nearly 10,000 other cyclists riding with us.

We’ll be among the slower riders, but we’ll finish. Slow and happy, one pedal stroke at a time!

 

Back in the saddle again!

Spring in the Pacific Northwest is a magical time of year. The days get longer, quite obviously, increasing by minutes from day to day. At yesterday’s solstice, we enjoyed a full 16 hours, 4 minutes of sunlight, bookended by long twilights. It’s hard to sleep much past 5:00 AM this time of year.

The long days couldn’t arrive at a better time! With my April marathon and June half marathon now behind me, I’ve turned my full attention to cycling. The Seattle to Portland (STP) ride is now less than a month away. That’s 206 miles, two back-to-back century rides amidst a throng of 10,000 cyclists. My longest ride so far this year has been a paltry 47 miles, but at least I’m now riding almost daily and spending as many hours as possible in the saddle.

Given that I live in the Pacific Northwest, that often means riding in the rain. I found myself cringing at the idea of riding my expensive road bike on a trail that, while paved, can get muddy in places. So I bought a second bike. I call it my a-rainy-day-is-not-an-excuse bike. The geometry is essentially the same as my road bike, but it’s heavier and sturdier, which means it’s a bit less twitchy and a lot less fussy on messy surfaces. I’m enjoying going back and forth between the two bikes — now when I get back on the road bike, it feels even faster!

I do most of my training rides solo. I stay close to either home or the car, riding a series of long loops or out-and-backs so that I’m not too far out in the middle of nowhere should anything go wrong. On those rare occasions when CFL and I can synchronize our schedules, we’ll do a longer ride to a destination together. For the most part, however, he does his training his way and I do my training my way.

His way mostly involves riding up hills. Last year, in preparing for Ride Around Washington (RAW) I rode at least twice as many total miles as he did (and spent many more hours), but he did a lot more hill-climbing. To my surprise, he came through RAW at least as well as I did, so this year I’m trying to include more hill training.

We are fortunate to live right at the foot of a world-class hill! Hurricane Ridge, at 5,242 feet, is one of the highlights of Olympic National Park. It’s also considered one of the best, most scenic cycling climbs in the USA. I live at an elevation of 300 feet. The top of Hurricane Ridge is 18 miles from my front door. That’s a lot of hill climbing in a very short distance!

For me the climb is a long, slow slog. The grade varies from 6-8%, which is not impossibly steep — but it’s nearly constant. It certainly gets the heart pumping, especially near the summit when the elevation becomes a factor. So far this year I’ve only made it halfway up, whereas CFL has gone the whole way several times. The views are spectacular, and the adrenaline-packed descent is the final reward for the climb.

Two short weeks after STP, we’ll do Ride Around Washington again. This year we’ll ride 437 miles in 6 days from Walla Walla, WA to Metaline Falls in the far northeast corner of the state. Although it’s another huge goal, it’s not as intimidating as STP because there are only 250 cyclists, and we are well-pampered with catered meals, hot showers, and luggage services. It’s a sort of traveling summer camp.

After that, I’m flirting with the idea of doing a duathlon. There’s a local one planned in mid-August: a 5K run, a 22-mile bike ride, and another 5K run. A triathlon is out of the question because I refuse to get in the water… but run/bike/run? Yeah, that’s tempting.

It’s good to be back in the saddle again!