Thursday roles around and I was left with a decision. Ride a 14-15 mph pace ride with the people I’m doing the STP with, do the Cascade ride, do both or do the 107 mi, 5500 ft of climbing RAMROD training series ride? Am I even vaguely fit enough to do the RAMROD training series ride? Last time I tried it, the ride went to North Bend, was 69 mi with 3,400 feet of elevation gain, and I failed. I fell further and further behind until I had to walk the SE 164th St hill from Uplands Way SE. I always caught up with the group at the rest stop, but I never let myself recover, choosing instead to try to stay up with the group. I made the same mistake one last time after the lunch stop in order to ride with a group that planned on going slow. As it turned out, they wanted to catch up with someone, so they took off at a pace my exhausted legs couldn’t begin to replicate and after falling slightly off the group the headwind finished me off. Demotivated, alone and feeling sick, I turned off the route in the last 15 miles skipping the Fall City-Issaquah road climb up to the Sammamish plateau in order to climb Snoqualmie Parkway to crawl up and die at home. Since then, I’ve done a number of CTS rides and have always been comfortable with the blue group’s pace, distance and elevation gain. The most I’ve done this season was the 80 mi ride to Black Diamond and that was no where near the hills of a RAMROD training series ride. In the end the decision was made when Per asked me at dinner on Thursday night if I was coming. What the hell, I’m stronger now and it sounded like Per hasn’t ridden that distance yet this season. Two weeks ago on Saturday the rain took out both the CTS ride and his training series ride.
7:30 AM Saturday and my legs are cold. I’m at the top of Lakemont Blvd getting ready to do this. There is a lady that I’ve seen many times at the CTS ride and I had told her about the Tuesday/Thursday rides and now through that she has decided to come to this one. I don’t think she’s expecting the amount of hills ahead, but last week she did ride the flying wheels century ride and the bonus 60 miles CTS ride the next day. The fact that we are at the top of a hill that at the end of this 100+ mile ride I’m going to have to climb back up is not lost on me. Coming down off of Lakemont using 164th I quickly fall to the back of the pack, since I’m overly cautious coming down hills that have curves. Riding down hill on Newport Ave I seem to fall further behind. What’s going on with my legs? Thursday my legs were tight and only after a bunch of riding did they stop feeling weird, but even then I still felt off. Here I was going steady downhill and was already slow. It wasn’t the stiffness of Thursday, it was just a pure lack of strength. I start to consol myself that it must be a headwind until I pass the hangliding landing field on Issaquah Hobart Rd and the wind sock is lying dead flat. Maybe it’s strapped down right now? Maybe the slight climb is doing it? Maybe my legs are cold? The excuses tumble out. The lady from the CTS ride is way ahead of me now but still visible, I’m riding with another lady in a white wind jacket. She keeps doing out of saddle work to maintain her speed. Perhaps it’s not just me. We take a left on to Tiger Mountain Rd from the north side, the steeper side. On a previous CTS ride I had skipped coming up Tiger Mountain from the south side when I thought that the group had left already, it turned out to be the “fast” group leaving early.
I manage to catch up to Per and about half the pack on the turn to SE 200th St, but as I climb the hill next to the golf course we once had a moral event on, I get a nasty cramp in the back right part of my right knee. I stop at the intersection and give up on staying with the group in order to message the muscles, have some electrolyte gel and some water. I catch up again to the group in Ravensdale at the rest stop. Per gives me the rest of his gallon of water and I get a quick stop in the bathroom. The next miles are uneventful, I stay in a nice pace of small climbs and rollers doing the group pace. We climb our the Green river Gorge area on Enumclaw-Franklin Rd, but turn onto a small side road, SE 384th before getting to 169. In front of me is a wall. I hear per saying something about this being the worse between two special “rollers” on the ride. This is not a roller, this is a long straight shot up. I already see some people towards the top walking their bikes. Muttering to myself “Per, What did I do to you?” I take it on. There is one thing I know for sure, there is no restarting on this hill. If I stop, I’ll have to walk. Per amazingly enough stops and restarts. At the top I catch my breath and then get moving to not lose the group.
Finally I make it to Enumclaw for lunch and I’m getting pretty sore. The group’s about half the mileage and about 2/5’s the climbing. Once again the group is leaving and I’ve just taken the last bite of the tuna sandwich I bought from Safeway. I think about the possibility that I’ll need to call Pamela to bail as we start out.
In my usual pattern I’ve fallen way behind the group coming down 218th Ave SE to Green Valley. I pass a number of people as we slowly climb out of Green Valley passing Flaming Geyser State Park. This climb I take slow enough that my heart rate doesn’t go over 180 too often. At the top, some 50+ motorcycles roar by. Cheaters. I lose the group at Black Diamond bakery, but my head is acting up enough that I take an Excedrin. I head north along the route on Lake Sawyer to Witte’s Rd. along which is the next rest stop. Here I don’t really get a chance to rest, I just get some water, down another electrolyte gel and move on. We do Sweeny Rd which turns into 196th Ave SE. It’s much more pleasant to climb it from this side then from the north end. Per is providing the few of us who hasn’t flown off with a good pace on the climbs. Jones rd goes by without much issue, but I know I have to climb the other wall of maple valley soon.
The other fun “roller” was on 160th Ave SE. It’s a tougher grade, but it is very short. We fly though may valley and I’m getting really weak and headachy. We do some climbing and extra miles next to coal creek pkwy before rolling into Lake Boren Park. Finally I sit down and just rest. The sun is out and I actually start to believe that I’ll finish the route. We hop down to Lake Washington Blvd and then climb back over the ridge to Coal Creek again before we hit Newport Way. I know the rest of the route at this point. It’s a straight shot (up) to 164th and I’m not looking forward to the final climb. Even worse I’m starting to fall behind the small pack again. Ironically I catch them on the hill. The road straighten’s out and I say to myself “False Top”, however I forgot that the rest of the climbing was nothing compared to the first section. Mercifully I quickly reach Lewis Creek Park and relax. That was a hard ride.
Of course the real question is, Can I do the next one in the series?