This weekend I rode Seattle Randonneur's Baker Lake 400k, and while my ride was generally uneventful in the best sort of way, it was a good reminder that riding a bike on busy roads in the dark and the pouring rain, while wrung out physically and mentally can be a risky business. Even under the best of conditions, there's a lot that can go wrong on a 250 mile bike ride. I know of three people who crashed during yesterday's ride, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear about others given the conditions. Luckily, of the crashes I heard about nobody was seriously injured.
The ride didn't start out dark, wet and forbidding. It was actually looking pretty nice when we all gathered at Mark's house in Woodinville for the 6:00am start. According the forecast, we had about 12 hours before the rain would set in. For once, the forecast was dead-on accurate.
The course covered some really beautiful roads from Woodinville, up through the cascade foothills to Baker Lake and back again. As the elevation profile shows, there was a lot of fairly flat riding on this course, but with a bump in the middle that sort of knocks the starch out of you, especially coming 115 miles into the ride.
My plan was to ride with the Charly Miller team from the start, but knowing my fitness still isn't quite back to where it was, I figured I'd probably drop off when we got to the big climb up to Baker Lake. Apparently I waaay overestimated my abilities. There was a lead group of about 12, including four of the Charly Miller team that took off like carbon fiber bats out of hell from the start. They were flying. I knew I'd regret it if I tried to keep up that pace, so I dropped off the back about a half hour into the ride. I found myself in a familiar place, in the no-man's land between the lead group and everyone else.
|"God light" over Snohomish|
|Cruising the Centennial trail|
|Lonesome roads with Mt. Baker in the distance|
Luckily I enjoy riding alone, because I was by myself for the next 50 miles or so until a small group overtook me about half way between Arlington and Darrington.
|The cavalry arrives|
The group lost some members off the back, and gained a couple more that had fallen off the back of the lead group, but most of the group stayed together for the rest of the ride.
|Me and Paul approaching Baker Lake|
The route had a short out-and-back section from Concrete up to Baker Lake and back. As we approached Baker Lake, the lead riders were heading back the other way. I saw the Charly Miller crew about a mile from the turn-around point, so I cheered them on and tried to quickly whip out my camera before they were gone. Unfortunately this is all I got:
|The Charly Miller crew riding toward Paris|
Kole, Vinnie, Jennifer and some other SiR volunteers were waiting for us at the Baker Lake control with hot soup, sandwiches, boiled potatoes and a truck load of other goodies. For some strange reason boiled potatoes were the thing that most hit the spot. I ate three there and stuffed a couple more in my bag for road food.
|Bikes and backhoes at the Baker Lake control|
The route from Baker Lake back to the start was deeper into the foothills than the first half of the route had been. That meant two things: more hills and more likelihood of rain. But before the rain and hills started, we enjoyed a nice stretch along the Skagit River from Concrete to Clear Lake on the South Skagit Highway and even saw our shadows a couple times.
|Skagit Valley Highway outside Concrete|
|Just before the rain started falling|
Around Arlington the rain started falling steadily and it was getting dark. We only had 50 miles to go, but the last 50 miles of 250 has a way of seeming a bit longer than the first 50 miles. I read Sunday morning that it rained just under an inch at SeaTac between 7:00 pm and midnight on Saturday. I’m guessing it rained more than that where we were. It was the kind of rain that comes down in sheets and creates small rivers in the road. Amazingly I was feeling pretty good through it all. Yes, I was looking forward to being done with the ride and getting out of the rain, but I was feeling comfortable on the bike and still had some strength in my legs. So, our group rolled on through the rolling hills, darkness and sheets of rain until eventually we were climbing the final hill (a steep MF, that one) up to Mark’s house. They had the holy trinity of dry towels, hot food and cold beer waiting for us at the finish. It was 10:50 pm.
My wrist was a bit sore at times during the ride, but then I could say the same about several other parts of my body. So, it seems like my recovery from the FOOSH is coming along pretty well. The rest of my body still needs some work if I expect to rejoin the Charly Miller team in Paris. I’m looking to the Tahuya Hills 600k in three weeks as the test that tells me whether I’m back on target for that big fat goal.