STP #5

Five 1-day STP's in a row!

Five 1-day STP’s in a row!

Really, it is amazing that a person can get from Seattle to Portland completely under her own power in a single day. The bicycle is a marvel of mechanical efficiency. Which is to say that Saturday was my fifth STP ride in a row. Each year it gets easier in certain respects, yet each year I look back the next day and think “really?!?! I did that?!?! Wow!”

And even more impressive than the fact that I got to Portland under my own power, is that about 10,000 people did the same thing, spread between one and two-day riders. It’s pretty neat.

Anyway, the annual endurance tradition went well. You may recall that last year saw us dealing with temperatures well into the 90’s. With the heat wave that we’ve been having, I was worried about a repeat. But it was cloudy with temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s–my power weather.

The flip side was that we did not have the usual tailwind (last year’s was especially impressive), but instead had a slight headwind. We grumbled quite a bit about it, but I’ll still take this year’s weather over last year’s. And despite the big difference in wind, we got to Portland at about the same time as last year–that’s how much extra time the heat took out of us in longer rest stops, and having to keep our effort level low while riding.

This year was an interesting experience for me in the differing fitnesses on the bike.

After doing this four times, I didn’t have any doubt about my ability to finish, barring freak accidents. But it is true that this year, I have fewer long (80 mile plus) rides under my belt that in previous years. But I’ve also been feeling really strong, and have smashed some personal best times on hills that I have ridden up dozens of times.

So STP turned out pretty much how one might expect. The things on the bike that are more durational fitness-related were barking at me a little–for me, my wrists and neck, mostly. Yet I was overall riding really strongly. For example, I went up “The Hill” in Puyallup about 15% faster than before, without feeling like I was working any harder. And 140 miles in, I felt like I was flying, and collected quite a paceline of people happy to draft me–but later on, I looked back and they were gone. I wasn’t trying to ride them off my wheel, I just felt good and was going.

There are a couple sections that tend to be lows for me, and they were again. But I overall felt better and stronger on the ride–enough so that I didn’t mind that my neck and wrists were a little annoyed with me.

A piece of information that I got at the finish line was that I was the 44th woman to cross the line. Now, mind you, I don’t know how many women do the ride in one day, so I don’t exactly know what that number means–but my hunch is that it’s something to feel good about!

We had a great time on the ride, and were pretty happy to be done!

We had a great time on the ride, and were pretty happy to be done!

In other news, a cold derailed me from my plans to ride on Mt Rainier last weekend, which I’m still bummed about. I’m going to see if I can squeeze that in this week. And the tail end of the cold also interrupted my Tenth of the Tour run–I was doing ok, but woke up the day before STP feeling not so great again, and decided that I was better off getting as much rest as I could. Luckily I felt good again on Saturday for STP. I’m bummed about all of that, but I made the right decisions. I’m going to keep as much of the Tenth of the Tour going as I can, just as a way to keep me biking, even if I won’t get “credit” for having done the whole thing.

And I’m going to try to get rid of this lingering congestion and cough!

Accidental genius–goals for the week of 7/14

Because I’m sure that all my readers are astute, observant, and good-looking (right?!?!), you likely will have noticed that I am posting my goals for the week of 7/14 considerably after the 14th. That is my accidental genius. You see, by stating my goals for the week at the end of the week, I can be sure to have accomplished them! Genius!

So, without further ado, my goals for the week of 7/14:

Take a rest day on Tuesday: accomplished!

Recover from STP: accomplished!

Continue getting my Tenth of the Tour miles in: accomplished! (So far.)

Starting Saturday, add more climbing back in, both on general principles, and as part of the Rapha Rising challenge (basically, climb a lot between July 19 and 27): whoops, here’s where the accidental nature of my genius shows, as I am writing this too early to report that I accomplished that goal. (Or to have a completely different goal in its place… Like lie horizontal on the couch for at least an hour…)

Anyway, this week has been a series of pretty piddly rides–getting miles in, but without ambition or extra credit. But what a difference challenging riding followed by an off day can make–I have felt strong and energetic the last couple days, and it’s not just my imagination. On a number of in-city climbs that I do regularly, I have set some personal bests, or been very close to a personal best time, and it has felt easy!

So, it will probably be another piddly day tomorrow, and then pushing myself this weekend and through the week. I think Hurricane Ridge will make an appearance soon…

And because the friendship between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen is about the awesomest thing ever–

Click to see more photos of them! (Scroll down)

Click to see more photos of them! (Scroll down)

STP

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.

No pictures from the ride, because I'm smart like that. But here's my collection of 1-day rider badges! ("Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!")

No pictures from the ride, because I’m smart like that. But here’s my collection of 1 day rider badges! (“Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”)

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.

FYI

It turns out that there are things you can do on your bike to get in an approximately 20 mile ride that are not hill repeats of Squak Mountain. Wow. Who knew?

For instance, you could do:

–a meandering, easy ride to Sunday morning coffee and croissant
–over to a friend’s house
–to STP packet pick up and the grocery store
–back to STP packet pick up because they gave you the wrong stuff in your packet the first time, and thence to coffee with friends

etc.

It’s been a relaxing week of easy riding. I’m still on track with the Tenth of the Tour, and I’m definitely feeling a training boost from the Rainier ride. My legs feel good, so here’s hoping I can get a lot of miles covered tomorrow before it gets too hot, and then take it easy into Portland.

 

BTW, goals for the week of 7/7–TotT, STP

So the Tenth of the Tour challenge continues this week, with goal mileage each day of around 20 miles, give or take.

Now, 20 miles can mean a lot of things–hill repeats up Squak Mountain for instance, or a relaxed flat spin around Alki with a coffee break in the middle. I’m going to incline towards the latter this week, both as recovery from yesterday (though I felt surprisingly good on this morning’s 25-mile ride for morning coffee and croissant), and to make sure I’m rested and fresh on Saturday, because I intend to spend the evening relaxing over a cold beverage after a little jaunt on my bike down to Portland, aka STP.

The 204 miles for the day will definitely cover my TotT Saturday goal mileage, with a little to spare, even…

Yay! Saturday will be my 4th Seattle-To-Portland ride, and I have had a blast each year. Sure, there are rides that are more scenic, or that are on less trafficked roads, or whatever. But nothing can compare to the delightful craziness of thousands of people sharing your insanity.

It’s also been a fun barometer of my progress on the bike, as each STP marks one more year of cycling under my belt. The first year I was nervous for months in advance, and very carefully following a training schedule (hmmm, sounds like this year re: Italy). I made it to Portland in pretty good shape, but it was definitely A Big Challenge.

The second year, I knew I could do it, wasn’t as rigorous about training, but was just out on my bike a fair amount. I was faster and the ride was easier. (STP is described as a flat route. It definitely helped the second year to know that there are some rolling hills in the second half, and steep ramps up to bridges. They aren’t too bad by any means, but when your mindset is flat, they are a rude surprise…)

Last year, I didn’t specifically train for STP at all, just did a kept riding, and added some new challenges, like the Wenatchee Apple Century that I enjoy so much. Again, I was faster and the ride was easier. The difficulty of a ride like this is mental as well as physical, and though I was definitely in better physical shape, the confidence I had last year was a great help too.

This year? Well, a couple days ago, Ian looked up from what he was doing and asked “STP is next week, right?” I thought for a moment and said “oh, yeah, it is.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for the ride–it’s a blast!!–but I am not anxiously watching the calendar, worrying about my ability to complete it. I have to continue to avoid crashes or ride-ending mechanical problems, as it’s not a sure thing until the ride is over. But it’s a nifty feeling to think “ride to Portland in a day? Sure, I can do that!”

One more goal for the week: sit down with my calendar and figure out how many more times I can get myself to Mt Rainier this summer!