Monday, July 23, 2007

RAMROD 2004 Remembered

This week with my buddy Joan I will be riding RAMROD. RAMROD = Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day. That equals 150+ miles and over 10k feet of climbing. I rode this ride in 2004 and I wanted to post my blog-like post from back then. It's a long post, but it is a good read. Enjoy.

Standard Disclaimer: This is not to be taken as a comprehensive report. This is just the view from one man's eyeballs. Any similarities to real people, places or events is purely coincidental ... and actually would be a little surprising. I will undoubtedly get events, names, numbers, teams, chronologies, places, distances, grades, standings, rankings, altitudes, speeds, injuries and ailments confused and mixed up. It's not impossible that I will mistake myself for someone else. I am often wrong. Do not sue me, you will be disappointed. Furthermore, there will likely be forehead-smacking spelling errors, egregious grammatical mistakes, baffling liberties taken with sentence structure and jaw-dropping punctuation mishaps. My commas will be where you'd least expect them. By reading this, you will lose more than you gain. However, if you are at work and are looking to kill time ... read on, friend....

RAMROD 2004 - The Facts:
July 29, 2004
153 mile bicycle ride around Mt. Rainier
10,000 feet of climbing involved

Where to start really? I guess I could set the table of this tale by telling you all that I have not been training for this event very well in the past month and a half. I have the usual list of excuses. If you'd like that list because of concern for me, or just want it on hand to re-use when you need, let me know and I'll send it off to you. I've been riding, but nothing more than 3.5 hours and nothing longer than 80 miles. So I was a bit nervous for the ride. I guess the tale really starts at 3am July 29th. That is when I dragged my sorry excuse for a hill climbing body out of bed, ate breakfast and headed out to meet the gang at the park n' ride at 4am. Yawn! I mean, you can still taste the toothpaste that early in the morning. I'm convinced that there are prisons that use this a form of punishment. Regardless, we were all there. A little tired but ready for the day. Fellow Aurora Cycling Club team mates Paul and Druska had organized everyone and the promise of a BBQ after was a highlight of the 4am conversations. We caravanned down to Enumclaw H.S., checked in and got ready to go. My coach, Bridget Dutra, was volunteering and gave last minute instructions and props to me.

I think we headed out around 7:30am (not to sure). The majority of the riders had already left, some as early as 5am. I strolled out a bit earlier than the rest of our gang because I knew that I needed to warm up slowly or I'd never make it. So off I went at a nice steady pace. Eventually the hydration efforts caught up to me and I stopped for a Bob Roll "nature break" and sure enough the group caught up to me just then. The gang was moving pretty quickly and David Malkin and I dropped back to help get Gary and Teresa back to the group. So along we went in a little pack. From Enumclaw it was about 32 miles to Eatonville and then at 58 miles we entered the park. Most of the riding had been fairly flat with some rollers. I'll admit to feeling a little tired at this point. Not yet worried, but tired. The thought of a 100 miles remaining was a thought that I shunned like my dogs do the idea of a bath. At the park entrance I ran into several other friends on the ride, fellow Bike Alliance board members Gary Strauss and David McLean. I was ahead of the Aurora gang, and I was really still trying to figure out how when I set off into the park. I was setting no personal records for speed here.

I've done some scenic riding, but I admit that the climb up to Paradise is one of the most beautiful that I've encountered. Being a NW native, that's right born and bred in Rainier's shadow, I have a sense of awe when it comes to this mountain. As I began climbing the grade was not too bad and my legs felt pretty good. My problem was that I had no idea how many miles it was to Paradise. As I check the trip sheet today I see it was 20 miles. I about 2/3's of the way up my body said "um... we done yet?" and it clicked into the last gear that I was reserving. As I struggled along I had some serious doubts in my head. "Would I be able to make?" "Would I walk after I get to the top?" "What is the Gross National Product of Panama?" "If you turn your lights on in your car and your driving the speed of light does anything happen?" All of these thoughts went through my brain as I tried to focus on anything but the pain in my legs. I think I actually heard a chipmunk laughing at all of us on the mountain. I'll admit that several riders passed me as many times as I passed others. The pain going up the hill was broken up by majestic views of Rainier.

I wondered if I was bonking at this point. I ate some more as I rode and kept hydrating, but I was a little nervous. I kept looking for the broom wagon to put me out of my misery, but it was the same misery I saw on everyone else's face as I meekly eeked out "on your left" and passed with the authority of a turtle. I felt like pulling over and throwing in the towel actually. The thing that kept me going, other than a rather irrational sense of pride in my hill climbing abilities, was the thought of spending the rest of the day in the van. I get terribly car sick and shuddered at the thought of it. As I rode I passed the dude who plays croquet around Mt. Rainier. I saw him running the same route we were on carrying a croquet mallet. Not sure if this is an Olympic sport, but this dude is a lock if it is. Things that make me laugh when I ride always help me out. Seeing this dude lifted me for a good 2 miles.

I got to the top of Paradise and was wondering where my ticker-tape parade and party festivities that my mind had promised my body had gone to. Alas, a lone water stop and no shade was all I was offered. But I didn't care, I got some water, ate some more, ate some more and then laid down on the hot pavement tempting my body to not rise again. Reluctantly I did. Just in time to see David Malkin crest the hill with a shit eating grin on his face. Mister self-proclaimed KOM himself. He had just beat Gary Mann up the hill by 22 seconds. The joy I felt was stifled by a desire to throttle him, but I smiled and high-fived and felt glad that some one had taught that hill a lesson.

I headed off from Paradise, waving a good-bye to my lady Rainier and a kind word of thanks to the spirit of the mountain for allowing me to pass mostly unharmed and with my pride intact. The next section was a little 7 mile downhill that made the Up worth it. I never pedalled once and hit 40 mph in a conservative descent. After that I rode along and encountered another little hill that saw us all string out along the road and question our common sense. The same chaps kept passing me, it was a bit defeating, but I told myself that if I rested as long as they did I would be feeling better. Yea that was the ticket. As I stopped for water at the top along came Pete (who was scamrodding with us that day) and he really got my confidence back up. He talked me through the rest of the course and I set out along side him down and out of the park. The descents on this ride are great. I really recommend them to anyone looking for a challenge and/or practice.

Soon as we left the park we turned left (at mile marker 99) and headed up Cayuss pass. I let Pete ride on ahead of me and just set at my own pace. I was riding about 8mph in my lowest gear at the bottom of the hill. Stopped for water once, going through 3 bottles in the 10 mile climb, and once again to reapply the sunscreen to the nose and cheeks and little rest. The switch backs are long. I would look up to see about 20-40 people in front of me just chugging up the hill. The whole way up I kept thinking to myself about Lance Armstrong. Watching the Tour had inspired me so much. I swear if I had seen him on the side of the road I would have kicked him in the nut for inspiring me to such lunacy. Somewhere deep inside I heard a voice screaming at me saying "dig, dig, dig!" and I did just that. I gritted my teeth and rode that last mile a little faster (hardly detectable though) and got to the top with a huge sense of accomplishment. Pete was there to greet me and right behind me rolled up Dave and Gary. Dave tried to deliver his best Virenque salute at the top. When Gary arrived he said in perfect Phil Ligget fashion "the rubber band has snapped." As we all collected ourselves, ate and hydrated I knew that we had another screaming down hill ahead.

Off we went, the worst of the worst behind us. While Dave climbed superbly today he descended, and I quote him, like a kite. My heavy frame didn't have much of a problem as I concentrated on keeping Gary and Pete in my sights. We stopped at the deli rest stop at the bottom for some more nourishment. After this we headed out for the last 30 miles. I guess it's common knowledge that a head wind would await us. So Gary organized us into a good little pace line and we back tempo work to get out of there. I will say that you will never see KOM Virenque working in the pace line for his Quick Step boys, but David did just that. I couldn't pull as long as the other three, but Gary just told me to do what I could and his encouragement kept my spirits up. As we cruised along I began to dread my times at the front, but wanted to do my share. We hurled past others on the road like they were standing still.

Now, at this point my body was asking for an audience with my brain. It went like this:
Body: Um.. brain.. why are you asking us to work so hard after a riding all that?
Brain: because it's more efficient you fool.
Body: I see.
Brain: anything else?
Body: Yes. We'd like to give you notice that we are now on strike.

And with that I pooped off the back of our pace line. I was definitely in "a spot of bother" and not looking forward to the remaining 15 miles to go on my own. But as I some how raised my head and saw Dave and Gary waving me up. Gary dropped back and caught me back up. I felt bad and said as much and Gary just laughed and said, "no worries, we needed to slow down." I think we all had a good laugh there and continued on for some time.

It was at this point that I wrote a song about Dave & Gary... it goes like this...
Dave and Gary are my good buddies
They climb hills real fast
They kept me from bonking
That's why I like them the best
Everyone now, you know the words!
(use your best Cartman voice for good effect)

Last was a little left hand turn and we cruised through part of the Mutual of Enumclaw course down hill and back to the high school. They ripped off my finish tag when we crossed the line. I'd love to tell you I did some kind of little sky salute, but I was just trying to hold myself on the bike. As I got back to the car my whole body hurt, even my bones. It was a weird sensation. They had showers available to us, after which I almost felt human again. The ride was great. I really pushed myself to a new level. I'm not anxious to do it again soon though, mind you. My father is arranging an intervention if I should continue with this kind of crazy talk in the future. (contact him if you'd like to get in on that action)

Back at the car the BBQ was starting up. Luca's pasta salad was a huge hit (so yummy) as was the fresh veggies and chips and BBQ chicken, with ribs and salmon to come. I need to thank Paul and Druska for organizing this.

I will say without hesitation that RAMROD was the toughest ride I've ever done. I suspect I would not say that if I had trained for it specifically. Still it was the longest I ever been in the saddle (10 hours), the longest mileage I've ever done (153) and the most climbing in one day (10,000 feet). Personally I think the rest stops could be better supplied, but all in all it was a well run event as well. Lastly, I would not have had as much fun (yes it was fun) on this ride without my fellow team mates there. In fact, I think I may have actually quit had I been by myself. It just strengthens what I already knew, that we have a team of great individuals.

Thanks for reading,

p.s. One last thought that I had was "that someone ought to teach those ostriches a lesson" knowwhatimean Joey?

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