~205 miles, about 13 1/2 hours total time. Left Seattle at about five, rolled over the finish line at about six thirty. Average total speed, including stops, of just over 15 miles an hour. It was overcast and cool for about the first half, with almost no wind at all, and then the second half it was sunny and 70-80f with a lovely tailwind of helpfulness.
In Napavine, we ran into the Napavine Fun Times Festival. The road through town was closed, and a cop told us we had to walk through town.
We all got off our bikes, and since we’re almost all in clipless pedals and shoes, we have to do that awkward biker click-click walk for half a mile, which is uncomfortable. The Napavine Fun Times festival consisted of people driving things – old cars, logging trucks, giant pickups, and so on – down the main drag of town, and throwing candy out to kids and horribly obese mothers alike (“Throw me some candy!”). And even though the candy was wrapped, if it touched the ground no one touched it, so as we walked through town in a giant string, we had to try not to step on melting mini-Hershey’s chocolate bars, mints, Tootsie Rolls.
As we walked down the main drag, we were like a continuous line of annoyed but silent ants next to the giant trucks and pickups, and the residents of Napavine made little jokes, delivered with a kind of flat or derisive tone, which I’ll present here as generalized questions along with the answers I bit back.
Q: “Must be nice to get off those bikes for a minute, huh?”
A: No. It’s hard to walk around in these shoes, for one, but it’s also hard to get back on them after a half-mile of walking.
The announcer for the parade, as a flatbed hauled a race car of some kind around:
Q: “And here’s (whoever) and his number one car, (whoever)’s been racing since… he could walk, I guess, and he’s doing really well at it. There are some other folks in our parade today. They’re probably grateful for the chance to slow down for a minute.”
A: No. If you’re trying to do Seattle-to-Portland in a day, you’re on a pretty brutal schedule. I’ve done it a couple times and this is the first time I’ve finished with the sun shining on me. An average total speed, including stops, of 14 miles an hour gets you to Portland at about eight. Stopping, especially non-productive stopping at food stops, is a debt you’re going to have to pay on the road.
Q: “Aren’t you supposed to ride those things?”
A: Aren’t you supposed to have more teeth?
Being forced to walk through town was annoying, but if Napavine wanted to hold their celebration that day, that’s fine, and I mean that in total sincerity: I grew up alongside Renton’s River Days and Kent’s Cornucopia Days. Knock yourself out.
It would have just been annoying. It was the people being dicks about it, like it was funny the bikers were forced to walk alongside logging trucks and the guy on the horse who wanted people to vote for him for some position. They’re under no obligation to be civil, really, though STP riders drop an immense amount of money in each town they ride through (at the cost of traffic disruptions and a certain amount of dickishness from a sliver of the rider pool). It was the eat-shit grins and our inability to do much but smile and nod or risk further delays and hassles (and I’m sure that occured to them).
What else? My training regimen was both a wild success and a potential horrible failure, which scares me. As a result of all my hill training, I tore up the hills: I often got frustrated with everyone grinding them out and would pull out and race by everyone else. It was strange, I felt like I really didn’t understand why they were all going so slow.
Here’s how crazy it was: I didn’t notice any significant climbs beyond the legendary Hill in Puyallup, and the bridge over the Columbia was impressive but not tough. I know STP’s regarded as pretty flat, but all of the hills that had ever caused me trouble were hardly notable.
The bad part was that the lack of time on the bike started to really hurt late in the ride, not so much in the legs but all the peripherals (if you know what I mean) and particularly my back and shoulders. It was a little miserable. If I hadn’t been so fast and there had been another couple of hours ahead of me, well, I’d have taken more time at the rest stops available in the last 50 miles, and that in turn would have really pushed the time back.
First 100 miles: piece of cake (no, really, it was)
Next 50 miles: somewhat tougher piece of cake
Last 50 miles: oooooooooooh man
The other thing that goes on, and I haven’t really figured out a way to solve this short of forming my own group, is there are a couple reasons the last 50 sucks:
– much of it is long, unshaded, and boring
– very long uphill stretches that are particularly draining on the rider who has already done 150+ miles
– and a more complicated one
If you’re biking, you can save 25% of your energy or more by getting behind someone (ignore wind for a second). So if I can go 18 miles an hour on my own at a normal effort, I could go much faster if someone’s in front of me doing 21, say.
If you have a partner or a group of people, you can take turns working hard at the front and then dropping back to save energy, and together your average pace can be a lot higher than what you could do individually.
Early in the ride, it’s fairly easy to find those groups to glom onto (and, if you’re a courteous rider, take your turn at the front). As the ride goes on, they get harder and harder to find, because as the race goes on, they’re ahead of you.
I got to the midway point at Centralia fast, for instance, having been a part of a couple of those groups, and my chance after that were still slim. And very late, when you’re dying for someone to draft, almost everyone on the road with you is in the exact same condition, so you’re drafting someone at 17 and resting a little but dragging your time down.
I need a posse, clearly. I’m thinking about hiring a team of domestiques. My friend Joel had this idea a couple of years ago, and every year in those last few hours I start to think about what a great thing it would be to be dragged into Portland.