Hurricane adventure!

Anyone who made it all the way to the end of my last post might be wondering how Ride the Hurricane went. (Or not, that’s ok too.)

TLDR version: we had a strong ride up, a cautious descent in pouring down rain, and the planned second trip up was unanimously vetoed.

Full version (with explanations or excuses, your choice): we arrived in Port Angeles Saturday evening to lovely weather with just enough picturesque clouds to hint that the next day’s forecast rain on Hurricane Ridge might actually materialize. Light scattered showers in the am, with heavier rain, possibly thunderstorms, after 11am.

Or so the forecast read.

Since we were planning to ascend twice, we got a pretty good start on the morning, though unlike RAMROD or STP, our alarm was not set for a time that began with a 3. That was nice. As we drove to the start, the rain started. Big, wet raindrops.

We started up the climb at 7:30, with a fair amount of our rain gear already on, rather than in the pockets and seatbags that we had so carefully packed them in. It was pretty balmy at the start, and given how much bicycling uphill warms you up, I was actually enjoying the rain–I would have been wet from sweating regardless. The rain felt refreshing to me, and made the air clean, cool, and damp, which is so much nicer to breathe than dusty, hot, and dry.

One of the great things about the Hurricane Ridge climb is the constantly evolving series of vistas–town, water, flowers, forests, hills, mountains. For example, a view from the ride:

Hurricane white out

Our view on Ride the Hurricane 2016

Actually I jest. One, there was no way I was bringing out my phone or camera in the pouring down rain. Two, even though the blank whiteness of inside a cloud was all we could see at some viewpoints, there were a couple that had a really lovely impressionistic fading away of hill ridges receding into the mist.

The cloud bank that we rode up into also served to make a familiar climb new again. Without being able to see up the road, we’d get to a corner and exclaim “this section already?!?” One section towards the top that isn’t my favorite because you can see for a ways and it never feels to me like I am making much progress just flew by.

So yeah, I actually enjoyed doing the climb in the (earlier than forecasted) rain.

Then we got to go back down. Though the temperature at the start was a pleasant 60 degrees or so, it was low 40’s at the top. Between sweat and rain, I was thoroughly soaked. Luckily, much of what I was wearing was wool, which retains insulative capacity when wet–but still… I had a couple more layers that I put on, including the high-tech marvel of a free hotel shower-cap over my helmet–something I picked up from a certain Andy Hampsten who knows a little something about cycling in inclement weather.

But there was no way to get around the fact that the descent would be cold and wet. And despite our rain gear, it would be a bit colder and wetter than we had planned for.

We rode our brakes all the way down, going slower just so that the windchill factor would be less. We also stopped several times to restore feeling to our hands. And at the bottom, we were in agreement that there would not be a second ascent.

Actually, I should rephrase that, as a second ascent would have been welcome for the warmth it would provide. Rather, there would not be a second descent.

So, it feels a little silly to be wimping out in bad weather during our training to ride the Dolomites with Andy Hampsten, someone who has ridden through much worse than a little rain… But it was really quite wet out. And cold, with that heavy humidity that brings the chill right into your bones. And perhaps a 5,000′ climb still counts for something?

Plus, I figured that all the extra muscle engagement that I was doing on the descent to try to create some warmth was more work than I would usually get on this ride, so it was kinda like doing the climb more than just the once? Sure.

At any rate, after the fact I’m glad I did it. During the ride, I really did enjoy the climb, and now that I am warm again, the descent makes a good story and allows me to indulge in feeling a little badass for being out riding in such conditions at all. And it continues to be amazing to ride that road car-free. This year, the peaceful patter of raindrops was part of what made the ascent enjoyable–something you can’t enjoy in the same way when it’s constantly interrupted by the roar of the internal combustion engine.

Performance-wise, I felt pretty good on the ascent (seriously–I’ll take ascending in the cold and rain over ascending in sun and 90 degree heat any day.) The four times I’ve gone up that climb, my times have been very close to each other. This year was definitely the most weight I’ve ever carried up the climb, considering the amount of clothing I was wearing and its water-logged state (seriously, that was one amazingly heavy pile of laundry), so I’m pleased with having a time comparable to my summer-weather ascents. Despite fewer miles this year, I am at least hanging on to fitness, maybe even slightly improving? And I’ve got to figure a lot of character growth for riding up and down a mountain in the driving rain…

August in the Pacific Northwest. There’s nothing like it.

 

STP, RAMROD, ETC

Well, the year continues to be non-ideal in terms of enough time for bicycle training. That’s the bad news–but the good news is that I do at least seem to be maintaining fitness alright, and having occasional moments of strength that make me wonder what I could be doing if I actually were putting in some serious training.

The year being less than ideal for training has also made it less than ideal for blogging. (And don’t even ask my parents or friends if they’ve seen me recently.) At any rate, here’s some sort of something post.

STP

This was year number 6, and I’m starting to feel like I can really do this ride. Because I know when my lows are, it’s easier for me to ride through them, and know they’re a normal, temporary thing, rather than a sign of impending doom. Correspondingly, I know when my highs are, and look forward to going for broke in those sections.

13691025_10153816181183367_3181209491434621269_o

It’s important to stay fueled on a ride like STP!

This year I especially enjoyed getting to Highway 30 in Oregon. I did a (for me) monster pull into St Helens–20 miles at about 20mph. (Note that for some of the really big muscular guys who excel at riding on the flat, this would not be impressive. But for me, 150 miles into the day, it’s darn tootling awesome.) By the time we got to St Helens, I had acquired some grateful passengers, and was feeling pretty good about myself. And also feeling ready to softpedal for a while. The ice-cold Coca Cola I had at that rest stop was one of the most delicious things I have had in a while.

13717220_10153816181178367_1917624818218371057_o

Off-the-bike stretching feels so good…

One thing that has morphed over the years on STP is that I have gone from resenting every time the road turns uphill, to being grateful for it. Especially if we’re in a group, I usually have to work way harder to stay with them on the flat than on the hills. This year, every time the road turned uphill, I had a sense of “thank goodness, this is something I can do.” Too bad the ride is so flat…

13691025_10153816181173367_5264021524370144457_o

The post-ride shower is about as awesome as life gets!

(As a side note, that has been one of the great things about this Dolomites journey. In the course of my daily cycling–or things like STP–I’m just no longer intimidated by hills. I no longer have the voice inside my head doubting whether I can do it. Sure, I still often have a voice complaining about having to do it when I’m feeling lazy or tired, but the debilitating moments of doubt and fear are gone. It’s a really delightful feeling to have lost that voice.)

13735717_10153816185893367_6959586183921701472_o

Being diligent about hydrating post-ride.

I have little ticklings in my mind of future goals for STP–Ian and I would make one hell of a tandem team, for one. And at the other end of the spectrum, gosh, I really like riding my single speed. Of all the double centuries out there, STP is probably the most doable… Hmmm.

We’ll see–but suffice to say, I’m already looking forward to next year!

RAMROD

My second RAMROD, and this year, made better by riding it with Ian. His work schedule has been even more difficult for bike training than mine has this year, so he spent a lot of time grumbling about how he wasn’t trained up enough, wouldn’t be able to do the ride, etc. What that translated to is that he didn’t pull so impossibly far away from me on the climbs, and we were able to ride most of the ride together. Alas, doing things like RAMROD will wake his cycling fitness right up, and we will return to the usual situation of me watching him rapidly disappear up the mountain.

ramrod16

RAMROD *with* Ian!

It was pretty toasty again this year, but not as bad as last year–for example, last year I had enough water to make up the Cayuse Pass climb, but was dry before the top. This year, I still had a little water sloshing around in one of my bottles. But the slightly reduced heat did not seem to reduce the headwind into Enumclaw. Oh well.

RAMROD is an odd beast–if you look at the overall climbing per mile, it’s not really that hilly of a ride. Much of it is more STPish in quality–long (essentially) flat sections. And then there are a couple mountain passes stuck in the middle. Despite the mountains, it’s not what I would call a mountainous ride. (Of course, with the Dolomites as my reference point, not much really counts as a mountainous ride in comparison…)

The end result is that it challenges every type of rider. The lightweight climber who flies up the mountains is batted around like a feather in the headwinds of the end section. The sort of strong muscular rider whose physique excels on the flats, is at a disadvantage on the climbs.

(I really saw the latter when a group of super muscular guys powered past me up the easy grade to Inspiration Point. When we got to the steeper grade of Cayuse Pass, they were really suffering, while I went by them easily. And guess who flew by us in a blur on the final essentially flat stretch into Enumclaw…)

And RAMROD continues to be amazingly beautiful. This year I especially appreciated this point towards the top of Cayuse Pass where the view opens up, and you can look down on a rugged landscape of seemingly endless undulating hills. They go down and down and down, and it seems incredible (literally: “not believable”) that you could have been propelling yourself up through that landscape.

ETC

And from here, what next?

Next weekend we’re doing the Ride the Hurricane event again. Riding a mountain climb car-free is about as good as it gets. So good that this year, for training purposes, we’re planning to ascend twice. Sigh. I mean, Yay!

(Flashback–on the hottest day of the year so far, June 5, I found myself riding the road up to Sunrise on Mt Rainier, one of my favorite climbs. Pretty brilliant plan on my part to be up in the mountains, escaping the heat. Even brillianter, the road was not yet open to cars. SO. MUCH. FUN!!!)

WP_20160605_008(15)

Despite the snow, it was TOASTY up here!

I’m going to see if I can get away for some more mountain riding before or after that. Also some sad-but-good-for-me things like hill repeat intervals. Then we’ll do some riding down in Ashland when we go to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and then, it’s pretty much Dolomite time… Yikes, where has the summer gone?!?