I woke up at 3:30 on Saturday morning and debated whether to try to sleep for a half hour before the alarm went off. I couldn't sleep, so I got up, ate breakfast, and unloaded the dishwasher out of guilt. I started the ride from my driveway at 4:20am. It was still dark, even in Seattle.
I live in West Seattle, which should really be called South Seattle since it's due south of downtown. Instead of driving to the starting line, I decided to ride north to meet the early starting riders at the I-90 bridge. I ended up riding an extra 3.5 miles, which seemed like nothing until I got close to Portland.
Early Speed - I went out too fast by plan. I wanted to bonk and then work my way out of a bonk to practice for Leadville. So I jumped behind two tandem bikes from California who were going about 23 mph. You get a good draft off tandem bikes, so I wasn't pushing too hard. I stayed in pace lines for the first half of the ride.
One big difference between this year and last year -- the pace lines were smaller and more traditional in 2008, with each rider taking a pull. Last year, nearly all the trains I jumped onto were being pulled either by an exceptionally strong rider who was dragging along his wife or buddies, or by a team of strong cyclists that didn't care about sharing the pull. I left a little earlier this year and rode faster early on, so maybe that accounts for the difference.
Tailwind - For the last 150 miles, we had a nice tailwind that at its weakest caused the leaves to rustle and at its strongest caused flags to wave straight out.
Besides helping you to go faster, the great thing about a tailwind is that when you hit a wall, you can drop out, ease up, and still go along at a pretty good clip. For me, it was pretty easy to sit up and still go 18-20 mph -- at least until we crossed into Oregon for the last 50 miles.
The heat - In the afternoon, the bank displays along Highway 30 flashed temperatures between 92 and 94 degrees. I was worn out and riding around 15 mph, blowing by a few people but watching a whole bunch of people blow by me. I never really bonked, but I hit a few little walls here and there. At various points along the way, I saw riders collapsed in the shade. I heard later that a whole bunch of riders trying to make it one day had to abandon the ride from heat exhaustion.
The Lexington bridge - People kept talking about how treacherous the Lexington Bridge is, but I didn't understand what the issue was. There was a dedicated section with room for two riders to ride side-by-side. But no one mentioned the fact that there are huge gaps in the bridge on the downhill side that can cause a pinch flat or even taco a wheel if you hit them. Fortunately, I was riding alone, so I had time to jump my bike over the gaps.
Friends and Family - Minette, Andy, and Wendy and the boys drove down to meet me at the Lexington food stop and again at the finish line. Stan and Grey met them at the finish line, so I had a whole throng cheering my arrival. That puts a smile on your face.
Total time: ~14 hours
Total time in saddle: 12 hours 35 minutes
Maximum speed: 40.9 mph
Average speed: 16.6 mph
Distance: 208.3 miles
Riding 200+ miles in a day isn't exactly fun. I love the course and the support and the festivities, but I don't want to do it again, not in one day. I'd rather take two days. I'd stop and eat pancakes, fill a Camelbak with whiskey, and sing "Danny Boy" during the ride.
Photo courtesy of Minette.