4:00 Woke up
5:00 Realized I wouldn’t get back to sleep, got dressed and ready
5:30 Got to the diner for breakfast, which was overwhelmed with riders; finally got food at 6:23. Can’t imagine what everyone did who got there later.
6:35 Got in line for package pick-up
7:00 And we’re off!
7:50 Arrived in Randle. Last time I did the ride, I was in a pelaton the whole way. This time…I’m so out of practice with pacelining. I would get into one, lose focus, and then get dropped. I finally gave up, and rode alone.
8:15 Started to rain. A misty, light, Pacific Northwest rain. First rain we’ve had in five weeks. Continued riding through green, mossy douglas fir forests – up and down, up and down.
9:00 Arrived at the first rest stop, Iron Creek. It was really too long for a first rest stop for me, and I was running on empty. I ate a banana (and a spare for the pocket), had a vanilla goo, drank a bottle of water, refilled water and electrolyte, peed, and got back on the bike.
The climb begins. It’s not as bad as I remember, but since I last attempted this ride, I have ridden over Cayoosh Pass, I have climbed the Monshees. It’s up, but it’s not impossibly up.
10:15 or so. It stops raining. I realize I am only part-way up the climb. My goal of reaching “the gate” by this time is clearly ridiculous. I eat my pocketed banana while riding.
I start to see Gold Medal finishers descend, the other way.
10:50 Water stop. I have another goo, drink another bottle of water, and refill them both.
I eat an entire package of blocks and swill water while climbing.
11:30 or so. Bear Meadows. I realize that they took down the gate here. I am here one hour later than I had planned.
At this point we’re in the Mt. St. Helens blast zone. It’s no longer lush green doug fir forests. Where there would have been forest, it’s a combo of sliver trunks and young trees. But it’s mostly above the tree line, and the air has a strong alpine spruce scent.
Now, it’s big swoopy downhills, and grinding uphills. I’m running on fumes. I told myself that I would turn around at noon no matter what. But people coming the other way kept shouting encouragement: “Only another mile and a half!” “Only a half mile more!” “You’ll see it in 200 yards!”
12:10 I arrive at the high point, the end of the road. The volunteers greet me with enthusiasm. I have two turkey wraps and a half roast beef sandwich. It’s probably the clearest it’ll be all day. I chew my lunch and look out at the peak-a-boo view of the mountains. I eat four, count ‘em, four chocolate brownies, swilling them down with copious water. I refill the water bottle, and get back on the bike.
1:00 Now I’m doing the reverse of the up-and-downs. I am just crawling up a hill at 5 mph, and I calculate I have 5 miles left to Bear Meadows. Another hour. This is the low point of the ride for me.
And then, no more than probably 3 minutes after I make this calculation – it’s Bear Meadows! My figuring was totally off! I’ve just finished the last real climb of the ride.
Down down down. I try to keep my speed between 30 and 33 mph. Once or twice it got away from me and I got up to 35 or so. The descent is technical – lots of twists and turns, and the pavement is in bad shape in many place. You have to carefully select your line. I made one error, but I never lost control.
1:40 I’m back at Iron Creek. It took 40 minutes to descend what it took two and a half hours to climb. Oddly, I eat no solid food. None of it looks particularly appealing. I have a strawberry/banana smoothie, drink more electrolyte, and refill my bottles. Ten minutes, and I’m back on the bike.
3:00 I give myself a promised break. It’s not long now, and I realize that I have a shot at not just finishing, but a silver medal finish. I suck down a double-caffeinated “Espresso Love” goo and finish a bottle of water.
3:50 I’m over the finish line! They put a silver medal around my neck.
I ride straight to my car, which is at a motel a half mile down the road. I am crying. I never thought I could do this. I had hoped to complete the ride, but complete it in time to get a silver finish, I thought was impossible.
I throw the bike in the car, change my shoes, and motor back to the finish line. I get a well-deserved massage, then eat the free sausage and fixings you get at the end. A pair of “finisher” socks. Another smoothie – this one apple and greens.
By the time I got home, a 2.5 hour drive later, I was too tired to eat more. I just took a shower, loafed a bit, and went to sleep.