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.
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.
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.
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…
(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.)
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!
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.
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.
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!!!)
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?!?