On July 12 and 13, I rode 207 miles in the Seattle to Portland Ride with my son Sean. I trained for months for this event, starting in February. It was a tremendous accomplishment for me that would never have materialized if I had not started taking better care of my health. Before it slips from my memory, I decided to write out my own notes about each leg of the trek so that I can prepare better for the next time.
U of WA to Lake Washington (4.7) was a well-marked section, with a few short hills. Sean and I arrived at 5:15, got in line and off we went! The route around Lake Washington was glorious; Mount Reiner and a full moon off to the East with the skyline of Seattle across the lake.
This part of the route was excellent where Sean and I averaged about 16 mph. Oftentimes (because of the flats around the lake) we were able to draft at about 18mph. Our first official rest stop was in Renton at REI headquarters. They had a polka band, which make the atmosphere festive. They also had wonderful burrito type wraps with peanut butter.
The next leg took us up to the hill (mainly flats until the hill). The hill was hard, but doable. I maxed out my gears. I was not the slowest person going up the hill, but one of the slowest. After the hill, the terrain became gentle rollers all the way to the Spanaway, where Anne and Jan met us (which was awesome). I had a flat right outside of Spanaway which Sean fixed lickety split.
After Spanaway the temperatures starting getting really hot. I am guessing it was about 90 by 1pm. The route was not too hard, mainly rollers, but the heat was problematic, especially for me. I had a hard time eating anything and drinking did not work either. Our mistake was not stopping every 10 miles to eat and drink. Somewhere around McKenna or Yelm, we found a Wal-Mart where I bought a yogurt, which I thought correctly, might settle my body down. Just walking trough that immense store to find the yogurt cooled my body down. Once I realized how my body was responding to the heat, we began taking many breaks, plus we stood in the misters, too (which were fabulous).
Around mile 72, we started riding on an old railroad trail. For the most part this trail went slowly downhill, which made it great for riding in the heat. The air circulation was not as good here as on the road (bushes and trees blocked he slight breeze), but it was heavenly to be off the road. We entered Centralia around mile 95. We rode about 4 miles into town to get to Centralia Community College (where there was great food!). Our average for day one was just under 14mph!
We got up early and left by 5:30am on Sunday morning (along wit a few hundred other riders with the same idea. Centralia to Winlock featured many rollers, with some flats. We again averaged in the upper teens (17-18 MPH) by drafting. The route from Winlock to the Kelso/Longview areas were perhaps the most scenic of the whole trip. Plenty of rollers, some with some grades to climb, but beautiful farmland and open fields. Anne and Jan met us at Lexington Free Food Stop, which was one of my favorites. We stayed there about 40 minutes and grabbed many snacks for later. The weather stayed cool all day (upper 60s. from a predicted 90ish).
We were escorted in groups of 500-700 riders over the Lewis and Clark Bridge. There was a steep grade initially on the bridge they gave way to a long descent. After crossing that beautiful bridge we started one of the most tedious parts of the route US Route 30 through Oregon. This is a heavily traveled route with two lanes of traffic in both directions. The shoulders were sometimes very narrow or nonexistent. The lumbering traffic was noisy and unpleasant. There were plenty of places to stop for food though, including a DQ and coffee for Sean. This part of the route also featured some light rain, which made us both cautious as we rode. Road bikes are not meant for rainy conditions.
That last part of the route crossed one more bridge over the river near Portland. Probably the longest 10 miles of the ride was riding through the various neighborhoods in Portland. I was tired and there were a zillion stoplights that we had to stop at. But we made it. When we were about two blocks away from the finish line, I saw the banners and started to get emotional. It was a LONG two days, but Sean and I had done it (Day 2 averaged about 13mph).
Four years ago, I could never have imagined doing a ride like this. Even three years ago when I did my first organized ride (the Tour De Cure) for 27 miles, I did not envision that I would do back to back centuries. I still have about 30 pounds that I would like to shed, but that extra weight has not stopped me in becoming more fit that I have ever been in my life.
I also could not imagine four years ago that my adult son Sean would ride this event with me. He was a great supporter and encouraged me when the route or the heat became hard. I think there were times when I surprised him at my stamina (like riding by him when he was trying to keep a slower base). He drafted me across many parts of the route which saved my energy for when I needed it (the hills). Plus, he was just good company. I would never recommend riding an event like the STP without a companion. You need it. Sean, you were the best! Thank-you so much for doing this with me! I will remember this for a long time!