I'm still not quite sure if I actually did it or if I just dreamt it, but I have memories of riding the SIR 600k brevet this weekend. The pain in my legs is telling me that it was real, so I think I'll go with that.
About 65 riders set out from Auburn at 6:00 am Saturday. I was feeling a little unsure about how you ride a 600k, I mean what sort of pace do you set when you know you need to maintain it for the next day and a half? I also wasn't sure if I should try to find a group to ride with or go it alone. But within the first ten miles, I found myself riding with a small group that consisted of a couple of guys that I had ridden with on the 300k and three others who seemed to be strong riders and nice enough guys, so I let the group set the pace. We rode along the Tacoma waterfront, over the Narrows Bridge, up the Kitsap peninsula past Gig Harbor to Waterman Point. For the first 50 miles the pace was fast but comfortable. At the first control we caught up to the one lone rider who was ahead of us, a guy named Ryan who is almost always among the first two or three to finish a brevet. He joined our group and bumped up our pace a notch putting it at something I could hang with, but just barely. um... fun.
The view forward and aft as we went through Fife. Ahead are three of the group I stayed with for the first 400k (l to r: Bryan, Matt and Dan).
Crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge
The next 125 miles were a bit of a blur. We rode along Hood Canal, and then headed for the coast through dried up little working class towns like Matlock, Cosmopolis and Aberdeen. We were riding into a headwind, not a severe headwind, but enough that you wouldn't want to ride it alone. Pretty early on in that stretch, we dropped one of the group (Dan). We were working as a disciplined pace line, taking 1 1/2 to 2 mile pulls each. I dreaded every time my pull came around, not because of my time out front, but because once I finished and dropped to the back it was all I could do to hang on. Being at the back of the line after a pull felt a little like how I've heard drowning described before. Drowning victims supposedly reach a point where they just let go and stop struggling, and a sense of calm comes over them. I'd be there at the back of the pack, struggling to hang on thinking how it would be so easy to just let go and slowly drift off to the bottom…
Heading toward the coast (l to r: Matt, Bryan, Dan, and Ryan hiding behind Dan)
Somehow I stayed with the group to the coast, through Westport (I don't mean to bad mouth Westport, but my God in the minimart where we stopped for water there couldn't have been more than a dozen teeth amongst the three people working there), Grayland, Tokeland until we finally turned inland and had the wind at our backs. I had been thinking that as soon as we had a tailwind, I could let the group go and ride at a less painful pace for a while. It was about that time that I got a flat tire. The group stopped and a couple of the guys helped me fix it. I had been really hurting just before the flat, but somehow getting off the bike for a few minutes to fix the flat restored me quite a bit so when we started rolling again I decided
About 150 miles in and still able to fake a smile.
The last 75 miles to the overnight control weren't too bad. The first half of it is a very gentle climb, but with the wind at our backs we were still moving at better than 20 mph. I was tired and everything hurt a little bit, but I was feeling surprisingly good all things considered. We got lost looking for the control that was about 20 miles out of Centralia which added about three miles and a few minutes of pointing at cue sheets and arguing, and Ryan got a flat and went through a couple tubes before he found the piece of wire stuck in his tire, but other than that it was pretty smooth sailing and we rolled into the overnight control at about 9:30pm just as it was getting dark. 400km done, only 200km to go.
My trusty steed resting at the Rainbow Falls Control 20 miles before Centralia
At the overnight control we were greeted by enthusiastic volunteers, mountains of real food, cold beer, and best of all, chairs! Four of our group had decided to make it a short stop and press on through the night to see if they could finish the ride in less than 24 hours. I entertained the idea of going with them for all of two seconds but instead opted to have a huge meal and try to get a few hours of sleep before getting back on the road. So, the two of us who were staying behind sent our riding buddies off into the night and grabbed a second plate of spaghetti.
Real Food at the overnight control!
I slept for about three hours and woke up feeling pretty rested, so I figured I might as well get back on the road. The volunteers made me a huge breakfast burrito (which I ended up regretting for the next 50 miles) and some paint stripper-like coffee. Bryan, the other guy from the group who stayed behind, was also up and ready to roll, so we headed out together a little after 2:30am.
Ready to roll at 2:30am
The first 50 miles after the overnight was mostly uphill, not steep but relentless. Strangely enough I really enjoyed the riding from 2:30 until the sun came up. It’s so peaceful with no cars on the road and the tunnel of light created by the headlights makes it easy to just focus on the task and get into a rhythm. Our route took us up back roads toward Mt. Rainier to the town of Morton. The sun was up by the time we reached Morton and we knew from that point it was another 80 miles of mostly downhill. From Morton on, Bryan and I took turns sort of running out of fuel and pulling each other along when the other guy was dragging. A big chunk of the last 80 miles follows the RAMROD route, and it’s some very scenic countryside, but by that point in the ride it was hard to appreciate it.
Bryan and I arrived at the finish in Auburn at 10:50am Sunday, 28 hours and 50 minutes after leaving. We were the second group to finish, the first being the four that we rode the first 400k with. It turns out they didn’t make the sub-24 hour finish they had been shooting for, but still finished in a phenomenal 24:35.
My cycle computer mysteriously reset itself somewhere around Enumclaw, so I don’t know what the actual total miles, riding time or average speed were, but it was something like 382 miles, and I’m thinking about 22 hours riding time.
Completing the 600k along with the 200k, 300k, and 400k makes me an official “Super Randonneur” (please say that with a French accent so it sounds like “zoo-pehr ron-duh-newwr”) according to l'Audax Club Perisien, which gives me the right to buy myself a shiney medal and brag about it to people who have never heard the word, "Randonneur." Woot!
Next up: RAMROD on July 30.