Another STP in the bag! Perhaps the best part was taking a shower at our Portland hotel… I mean, there was a lot of fabulous stuff on the ride and all, but that shower was amazing. (And my apologies to the two people in the elevator with me. I wasn’t enjoying being in the elevator with me either.)
This year was nowhere near as challenging as my first STP, when I didn’t even know if I could make it, but it was still plenty difficult. At the end, Ian overheard someone saying that as she was driving into Portland, her car thermometer read 100 degrees.
The heat was my big worry going in–my hope was to start with the first wave at 4:45AM, go hard and get as much as the ride done as possible before the heat really kicked in. It seemed we weren’t the only ones with this plan, as the starting crowd seemed to be larger than usual, and contained a number of two-day riders (who technically aren’t supposed to start until later). And astonishingly, everything went according to plan! (That anything goes right when you’ve set your alarm for 3:45AM is a miracle…)
The beginning of the ride is a little hairy. It’s crowded and there are always a few (usually young male) people trying to show off how macho they are or something, and who go too fast for the number of people and do stupid stuff, and other people not paying attention and doing other stupid stuff. There seemed a little more of that this year, but we made it through intact, and things eventually thin out and get safer.
We got to Centralia (halfway point) before 11, in temperatures that were pretty comfortable still. After some lunch, a re-up of the sunscreen, and an ice cube in my helmet, we set out again. It was starting to get hot.
But, it’s not a race (despite how some people ride it), and my job is not dependent on how quickly I can bike to Portland, so we didn’t push too hard, stopped to get more water when we needed to, and stayed at a couple of the rest stops a little longer than we otherwise would have.
One of my favorite parts of the ride is the stretch of Highway 30 in Oregon. A lot of people don’t really like this part, as it’s 40 miles or so of not-super-scenic, busy, noisy highway. But there’s usually a tailwind here, and I think (though I could be wrong) that the warmer it is, the more of a tailwind there is. So this year was pretty awesome.
At any rate, when I get to this part, I always feel like I’m flying. I’ve biked 150 miles, and all of a sudden it is so easy to pedal my bicycle! The psychological boost gives me a physical boost, and I always get a second wind through here. Usually I’m the one to ask Ian to slow down, or just watch him disappear into the distance–I think he has asked me to slow down twice in our four years of biking together, and they were both on 30 in STP… I just feel fabulous on that road!
And this year, after baking in the sun for the first part of 30, the second half of it or so is in the shade (and more so because we had stopped longer earlier, and were hitting 30 later in the day). Reaching that shade, with a tailwind, and Portland just a short bike ride away… That was bliss. For a moment. And then I noticed that it was still really hot even in the shade, I was getting hungry again, and was getting a bit of heat rash in some fun places. But it was a good moment while it lasted.
It’s nice to have a better result each year, and point to that as proof of improvement–this year, my on-bike time was the same as last, and the overall time was longer because we took more time at the stops. But I think that does represent improvement, given the difficulty that the heat presented. Rather than taking pride in being faster, this year I’m taking pride in the fact that I continued to sweat and pee throughout the ride. I was able to stay on top of my hydration, and though I was wishing it weren’t as hot out, I never felt in distress.
As a bonus, with all the hill work I’ve been doing, this ride has gotten flatter and flatter. The first year, I was not pleased with how many hills there were on this allegedly “flat” ride. This year, we overheard someone in St. Helens complaining about the hilly section coming up, and we exchanged puzzled glances–what hilly section?! It’s a flat ride!
A lot of people ask “why?!?!” And I’ll admit there were times on the ride I was asking myself the same thing. (Have I mentioned yet that the ride got really hot?) STP is nowhere near as scenic as other rides I do, there are rides that are more challenging, have less chaos and sketch group riding–in other words, there are a lot of rides that on paper have a lot more going for them than STP.
Yet it remains one of my must-do rides each year, and I really enjoy it. There’s just something special about STP. Part of it is the chaos–there is chaos because 10,000 people are getting on their bicycles together! It still boggles my mind! Part of it is the conceptual spiffiness of being able to hop on my bike and end up in Portland. And part of it… I don’t know. But it’s always one of the highlights of my biking year.
Meanwhile, in other news, the Tenth of the Tour challenge continues. I got my miles in on Sunday and today, and I can’t even begin to describe how happy I am to have a rest day tomorrow.
Also, I need to figure out goals for the rest of the week, but I can’t think about that right now. I think I will see how I feel later in the week, because all I feel right now is tired. And like I don’t want to do anything challenging or useful training-wise, because even thinking about Zoo Hill or the like makes my legs protest.
And to finish, one more installment in the “what do I think about when riding” series:
There are things I don’t like about bicycling, such as riding over rough pavement when I really, really, really, really have to pee.