I have done a lot of pre-rides but this is my first ever pre-ride report, I say this because a pre-ride report is supposed to be meaningful information for the intended future rider. My style is more like musing over a ride frequently on another ride and depicting what I find the poetic aspects.
So reader be warned that I may ramble-on in my own poetic reverie, I found this ride very challenging and I had the help of a giant on 2 wheels.
The Cascade 1200 was a beautiful thing and there is no room to talk about it here, but from the moment the four of us and Carol met at the Starbucks on Mercer Island, we agreed that the mission was collective and success defined as 4 bikes rolling into the finish in Monroe.
Mentally I felt Loup Loup would be the watershed after a day of cooking in Eastern Washington, but I believe it was the bone shaking that we got in old 97 before Mallot that softened us.
Geoff took the bull by the horns this time riding ahead, leaving Ralph, Kole and myself to negotiate carefully with her grades, leaving me baffled how such a great athlete had the incredible ability, self restraint.
So that is how it all started, somewhere on Loup Loup, I offered my 2 friends Kola nut in true Igbo tradition and they accepted and liked the wake-up effect, Kole even liked the bitter taste.
In Monroe Kole had asked if I had extra Kola as he would be doing the Pre-Ride of the Mountain 600K. I did, but in the post ride buzz could not find a darned thing in my bags, so I promised I would deliver.
Mark meantime sent out message on the wire, to ride the new permanent from Duvall to Stevens Summit and I eagerly signed up, since I wanted to catch up since helping Mark run the 1000K an experience that I found unusually rewarding.
So Tuesday night we finish the 1200k, I go by to visit my friend Kole on Thursday with Kola nut.
No I cannot do the Pre-ride with him on Friday because I am going on this wondrous journey with Mark (the GPS) Thomas, but of course I can come on Saturday and we do not have to leave till 2100 Saturday, lets start sleeping right away.
The biggest Pre-pre-ride challenge was to apportion the right amount of miserably little time left between sleep and logistics. Weather, Body Gear, Bike Gear, Food, Water, I am no superman I like to say. Truth is I am no Geoff Swarts either, the Spock of Randonneuring. Truth is I do like to leave somethings to chance. Well what did Nostradamus (my fond name for Geoffs Garmin 705) say; that we should cancel the ride based on the weather. I was now way past the point of no return. I had the good sense at least to call the Snug Harbor for an overnite room, the lady at the other end of the phone sounded puzzled, "the holidays" she retorted as if with a cigarette dangling between long nailed fingers "I have no room". I did not even realize that it was holidays, any day on a bike is holidays for me. I quickly called the Silver Beach Resort, they had the perfect room for me, with a door directly outside for the bikes, clearly this type of journey-man was not news to her. There was a Cinderella clause in the contract, at 2200 everything would turn back into a pumpkin, no problem we would be there at about1800.
Conventional "Rando Wisdom" if that is not an oxymoron holds if Pre-riders have bad weather, then the riders will have good weather. I wonder what the greats like Jan and Kent think about these superstitions. If there is any truth to it, I would immediately sign up for a challenging and gorgeous ride and to fall in love with the Goddess the Cascades with her sensuous curves outlined so delicately by the moon gradually rising above one of her crests. If not sign up anyway and here is what I took: baselayer long sleeve Smartwool, long sleeve Woolistics blue-shirt, Shower pass jacket, wool skull cap, waterproof hat, Ibex 3/4 length wool pants, wool leg warmers, booties, Endura 3/4 length water proof over pants. Ibex thin wool gloves, regular padded Pearl Izumi gauntlets and oversize wool mitt.
Nwachinemelu my black Specialized Roubaix with Mavic Ksyriums in the back and Mavic CXP 30's built by Joe Platzner with a Shcmidt hub in front powering an E3 light mounted on the right side of the skewer. Both aluminum rims with Dura-ace caliper brakes, 700 x 28 tires both in front and behind and fenders basically snap on race blades.
The Mystic Mjolnir my new rando Serotta Ottrot with the Dura ace triple in front, full size fenders, tubus rack and large front bag would have been my first choice but after 1200K things were stretched and needed tweaking, wrenching and there was no time. So I deluded myself into going lite for the climbing. In this thinking a carbon Topeak back rack was clamped unto the carbon seat post of the Roubaix with lite panniers to carry what I deem essentials; clothing, batteries, emergency light a Stella with a rechargeable battery 2-7hrs depending on intensity, and the outlet charger ( I find that electrical outlets are very easy to find out there), tools, spare tubes, spare tire CO2 canisters and micro-rocket hand pump. A Jandd triangular bag was suspended from her horizontal tube for food and Brevet paperwork and clamped on her carbon handlebars was an additional lite water bottle holder, in which I hold many different things like a bag of salty chips and of course water. I also added a Bento box solely for carrying my Olympus Stylus (though on the heavy side for a digital camera, has great shock and water resistance) as Kole indicated we may need images and my cell phone as it was important to make contact and respond if circumstances dictated. The cell phone though wrapped in a plastic bag stopped functioning from moisture before we reached Paradise.
As I drove to Enumclaw I asked myself, who was I kidding, I was going to be riding alone with Mr, Kantner, he had done this ride last year in an inspiring 27+ hours including an hour of sleep and an hour lost in a fog. He had been the first one in on the last HPC to windy ridge. The only thing I had going was lots of miles in my legs, and the fact that Kole seemed to want me to come with him. Was he grossly over-estimating me, I promised myself to tell him early that he could ride away anytime he chose as I am quite comfortable riding by myself.
At Enumclaw I suggested we get a receipt at Safeway where I parked, we rode down to the Start Motel and departed promptly at 2100, following the RAMROD route to the park entrance, we enjoyed cool weather initially clear skies and a madman's moon. Eatonville I had no needs and did not really look for a store. By Elbe I was beginning to consider pre-ride logistics and noted two bars where open, clearly a congregation point for the holidays, I wondered if they would serve for water or food during the ride itself but it had no pull for me. Beware the railroad tracks in the Elbe area, its acute angle, one of which is unmarked by a sign, it can quick-end a Brevet especially when wet. We ignored another open bar at Ashford but stopped at the Nisqually entrance of the Park for more clothing as it progressively got more cloudy, windy, cold and wet.
I told myself that this was good weather for climbing and Imagined stopping at some point to strip off my Jacket and climb in my blue shirt, but it just got more blustery and my caloric needs shot up, I ate everything I was carrying and accepted every offer from Kole. Paradise and I am a little shaken. the Inn doors are open and I walk in. My first concern is that my cell stopped working a long time ago and I head straight for their pay phones, good news! all is quiet on that front, this could be fun, then I see the dude sleeping on the couch in front of a fireplace. The other fireplace at the Inn has an empty couch where I sit and consider my cold wet shivering self and then its time to go.
The descent from Paradise I found challenging, I was truly surprised by the poor performance of my brakes, this robbed a lot of my confidence, so I prayed for the little three mile climb in between to raise my core temp. Without the stopping power on demand it was a slow ride down that mountain in that weather condition, a steep learning curve, I will just have to try disc brakes one day if I make it out of here.
Dusk light and better visibility brought more confidence but this hour also is programmed for sleep in my DNA, I Ignored the Kola fearing caffeine on my empty stomach. We pushed for Packwood were from 0600 eating places start to open we had a choice of eating places and settled on a restaurant recommended by a bystander. I stuffed eggs, meat, potatoes, bread into my face, it went down easy. We filled the bottles and it was time to go, on the road to Randle Kole told me that he had averaged close to 25mph on this stretch the previous time and I remembered averaging over 20mph at the start of the HPC in 2007, surely I had improved as a cyclist since then, but today I had to be content with a slower pace, in time my legs would warm up. A routine stop at Randle and then the climb to the Windy Ridge, we were pelted with cold wind driven rain, it was hard calorie consuming work. Kole stuck by me, he is by far a better climber than I am, yes I can generate watts on a bike but I need rests in between, at least I can rest on a bike by backing off the pace. Windy Ridge true to its name greeted us with icy wind blasts gusting up to 40mph.
The descent was a mixed bag, there is a little store open before the T junction of 26/99 with bare bones selection, mixed in with some little climbing like up to Bear Meadows, in the daylight we could let it rip, slowing at a point for a herd of Elk. We stopped before Randle this time just to strip of clothes and pushed on to Packwood. Stopped at the gas station at the junction of US 12 and Skate Creek Road and had Tacos and took care of various bodily functions before heading up the US 12 to White Pass. The Weather was reasonable at this point but we were off our projected time table. I encouraged Kole to ride ahead because of Cinderella Clause and get keys to the overnite at the Silver Beach Resort. I was mesmerized by the moon a sight that I cannot aptly describe as I crested White Pass alone. Then it all changed, I got hit by a squall that I could not imagine was there. Another nasty descent brought me to the Silver Beach at 2205, Kole was already in one of the double or was it triple beds, he had made it there 45mins earlier.
I took off my jacket my very wet leg warmers and booties and shoes, and shivering like a pine in the wind. I went to bed crunching on chips Kole had bought at Packwood and left out by my nightstand, now the only source of calories, we should have loaded up at Packwood.
I woke spontaneously about an hour and some change later and saw Kole upright, I got myself together and we left, the Squall now gone we went tearing down US 12 getting concerned a little about time. At the junction with the 410 we started our long ascent to Chinook Pass. Kole seemed to be fighting sleep, I was fighting fatigue. Kole got a flat and fixed it quite fast, I pushed him to ride on ahead. After Clifdell where I was able to find a working payphone to call in, he stepped it up and I was kinda glad to be left alone to find a firing solution for my muscles and I did. I was able to kick it up way more than a notch. 2-3 miles to the top of Chinook Pass I saw Kole stopped, I believe he was waiting for me, I rode past him and heard him say something about me flying up the hill, I think he was surprised given my earlier fatigue. He rode easily up to me and asked where I found the energy I muttered that I had cried for this Brevet what else could I do. I passed Kole again as he stopped at the top to gear for the descent, I did not care anymore and just plunged down the mountain riding both brakes in yet another Squall that appeared as we crested the pass. The rear brakes seemed to do absolutely nothing and the front brakes when pulled too hard seemed to make a concerning metallic sound. I guided my apathetic self to the Sunrise road where Kole came up behind me and we raced to the White River Campgrounds. His smile came back, we have lots of time now he said but we have to tell Jan about the lack food between Packwood and Greenwater. Re-fueled by Greenwater I drafted at a steady tempo behind Kole till he flatted again, we decided to meet at the Mud Mountain area where I would scope out an information control question. The exhilarating descent from the Mud Mountain area brought us to the Finish, we had less than 2 hours to spare.
A cautionary note: the most difficult aspect of this Brevet was the drive home and I live less than an hour away in Federal Way. Get some sleep if you need to, driving or riding it will be the best Motel money you ever spent.
Forever grateful to Kole, Jan and Ryan