My pursuit of at least one century ride in every calendar month in '09 rolls on... Saturday's SIR 300k helped me get April's ride out of the way early in the month. Four days before the ride it was snowing in Western WA, but the velo gods smiled upon us by giving us a beautiful clear day for the 300k.
About 50 entrepid Randonneurs and Randonneuses set out from the Clinton ferry dock on the south end of Whidbey Island at 7:00am. One thing about ferry docks: they're always at the bottoms of hills... But I was actually happy to start out on a hill since it was still about 32 degrees. Time to get the blood pumping. About a mile or two into the ride I caught up to a group of six other riders who were moving along pretty well, and I ended up staying with that group for the next 315 kilometers.
Our course would take us the length of Whidbey Island, up Chuckanut drive to Bellingham, then east toward Mt. Baker as far as Deming. At Deming the course headed South and stayed on Hwy 9 for something just short of eternity--which it turns out is just south of Arlington. From there we would hop on the Centennial trail to Snohommish, then back over to lovely Everett, over a big hump and back down the Mukilteo speedway to the ferry.
Here's the course: http://bikeroutetoaster.com/Course.aspx?course=40288
One thing I've learned to do on rides like this is to avoid thinking about the entire ride. Starting off up that hill out of Clinton thinking, "two miles down, only 193 to go" is a BAD idea. Breaking it into nice bite-sized chunks is the only way to survive. So, I started thinking about the beautiful views from Deception Pass and got to work.
The group I was riding with was awesome. All strong riders, they knew how to handle a pace line, fun guys to chat with, supportive if anyone was starting to drag, I couldn't have picked a better group. We had a couple others join us or drop here and there along the way, but basically the core group of six stayed together to the end. I was the only one in the group who didn't have at least a couple of seasons of Randonneuring experience, so I really appreciated how welcoming they were.
So, here's something I learned about experienced hardcore Randonneurs: These guys do not mess around with rest stops. If we stopped at a minimart for water or food it was, jump off the bike, run in and grab some water and a candy bar, get back on the bike and go. If you needed to get water AND pee, then you were going to need to do some work to catch the group again. No waiting around until everyone's ready. As soon as you're ready to go just get on the bike and start riding. Ride slow for the first couple minutes to let the group reform, then back to business. We stopped about six times in 12 hours, and five of those were forced stops because we had to get our brevet cards signed at the check point (Randonneuring = bicycling with paperwork).
I have to admit that while I'm sure the scenery was beautiful the whole way, I didn't see a lot of it on this ride. The benefits of riding in a pace line are many (drafting, encouragement, conversation, help with navigation, etc.), but one of the drawbacks is that it requires concentration to stay 12" off the wheel of the guy in front of you without killing yourself and everyone behind you. It doesn't give you a lot of time to check out the world around you. I experienced a lot of pace line riding in last year's STP and mostly hated it. But I realize now that the problem with the STP was that most of the people there don't know how to ride in a pace line. With a group of six strong riders with tons of pace line experience, it's really a thing of beauty. For about 20 miles down Hwy 9, we even ran as a double pace line, acting like we owned the whole damn road. Needless to say, some of locals trying to get by us weren't too impressed by our blue angel-like precision.
The pictures here were taken by one of the other guys in the group. I had a camera with me, but again the pace line made picture taking seem like more challenge than I was willing to take on.
Our group taking the lane, critical mass style, as we cross over the Deception Pass bridge (I was at the back of the pack at this point trying not to worry about that semi on my ass)
Somewhere around the 150 mile mark I started hurting everywhere all at once. Back, neck, shoulders, butt, feet. Nothing horrible, but it was definitely annoying. Luckily we had to stop for a control not long after that which gave me a chance to swallow a couple Advil. That totally did the trick and I felt great for the rest of the ride.
We rolled into the finish at the Mukilteo ferry dock a little before 6, plenty of time to hang out and watch the sun set over Whidbey Island while munching on the BEST PIZZA I'VE EVER, EVER HAD IN MY LIFE (probably from Dominos or something...).
Distance: 195.8 miles/315 kilometers
Time:10:53 in the saddle/11:52 total
Climbing: 7,659 ft.