During the spring and summer of 2012, I was training for the well-known double century ride from Seattle to Portland. To train for such a ride/race was difficult with a pregnant wife and toddler at home. Luckily, this trip to Portland and then Seattle would be done with the wife’s parents, and time would be spent at the wife’s sister’s house. These details caused the wife to be more willing to lose Saturday mornings to long rides in preparation. In training for such an event there is really only one thing to do, and that is spend a lot of time in the saddle spinning your legs. In living in Salt Lake at the time I would get up at 4:00 am on most Saturday mornings to ride as much as possible while the family was asleep. These training rides would usually include a ride out to Salt-Air, and then to Farmington and back to the house. One training ride included a ride to the point of the mountain and then a backtracking course to Farmington. At this time in the morning there were few other riders out, and pace lines were not possible. Much solo work with books and podcasts on the ipod was necessary. However, most days the training could be accomplished before midday and leaving the remaining of the day for family time. My training plan was developed in an excel spreadsheet with a 10% increase weekly with every four weeks dropping it back to 50% of the previous weekend’s ride. The longest ride was 120 miles 2 weeks before the event date. I was somewhat worried that I didn’t have enough miles under my belt for the 204 miles in one shot, but with hindsight, this worry was unfounded. This was especially the case due to the added benefit of the pace lines during the event.
Our travel to Portland was mostly without issue and both the bicycles of the Cyclist and the father in law rode along on a trunk rack just fine. Our plan was to be with family for a few days before driving up to Seattle to start the ride. Around mid-day the day before the ride, I, the parents-in-law, and the wife’s brother-in-law drove up to Seattle. The packet pickup was at an REI in downtown Seattle. The atmosphere was normal of all packet pickups, and the testosterone was raised just by smelling the familiar smell of the goody bags. One thing of note given with this goody bag was a Tyvek rain jacket with the STP logos and sponsors. This jacket is very delicate, but waterproof. Good for sticking in a corner of a pannier and forgetting about it because it is so light and compactable. The group found a power carb meal at well-known noodle company close to the hotel and I ate the most calories on the menu possible. The group went to bed as soon as possible so as to be ready for the 3:30 wake up time.
At 3:30 a.m., the father-in-law, the wife’s brother-in-law, and I woke to have a quick meal before getting to the start line; a wonderful mixture of rice and beans with avocado made by the mother-in-law. The wife’s brother-in-law was to join up with us and father-in-law at the 100 mile point, and dropped the other two off at the start-line. This was a much better scenario than needing to find a parking place and paying the fees required. It also allowed us and the father-in-law to be close to the start during the first starting time. Supposedly there were a few start times so as to space all of the riders out. I found this most necessary whereas most of the dangerous situations were experienced within the first couple of miles due to the crowded roads. The start was just before dawn, and very exhilarating. Not many experiences in life will compare to riding through the streets of Seattle with thousands of other cyclists with LEDs flashing.
I quickly lost track of the father-in-law due to the number of riders. Most of that first part of the ride time was spent looking for each other and either slowing down or speeding up accordingly. Since I am from Utah, the misty morning weather by the shore of Lake Washington was a new and very interesting experience. It also made it colder than planned for. One interesting thing of note was the diversity of riders seen. There was every classification of riders from professionals on 5 figure bikes to Hippies on beach cruisers. A guy on a long board was also attempting the “ride”. During the first part of the ride, every one of them was happy too. Very happy!
The first full stop came quicker than expected, and I refueled and waited for the father-in-law. After a few minutes I was scared that the father-in-law was somehow ahead of me or had gone through the checkpoint without notice. Then we ran into each other serendipitously by the infamously named honey buckets. Fueling and coordination accomplished, they started back at it. The mass of people quickly caused them to be separated again, and I resolved to keep my own pace and meet him at the stops. One of the climbs of the route was during this next section of the ride. Not a large one, but taxing. It was very interesting to note how much this climb seemed to take it out of the riders. Since training for this event was done in Utah, at elevation, and up canyons, I really didn’t ‘feel’ this climb, and passed numerous people on the way up. The next stop was sponsored by Jamba Juice, and at 54 miles it was great to have a Jamba Juice. PB&J as well as other sandwiches and fruits were quickly obtained. After a few minutes the father-in-law showed up and we exchanged brief stories and were on our way. That was the last time we met up until the midway point. I got into a large pace-line that was making really good time. The average speed for this stretch with the pace-line was nearly 28 mph. This was short lived though as it broke up as soon as a few turns and some small towns were encountered. A small pace line of 4 riders was then found at a good pace, but that was also short lived and by the time the third stop at mile 88 was reached, I was alone and close to bonking. A quick refueling and with water bottles filled the midway point was quickly realized. Looking down at the computer I was somewhat ebullient due to the average speed of 18.9 mph for the first 102 miles. Yes, pace lines were used, but for the better part of the distance it was conquered alone, and at a personal best.
Quite some time was spent at this point waiting for the father-in-law. Later I found out that he didn’t really enjoy joining pace lines because of the inherent danger of it (understandable). It also takes some deviation at times from a constant pace as well, and he is continuously able to pound out a constant pace. After joining up with the wife’s-brother-in-law, the father-in-law showed up took a rest, ate some food, and then we three continued on together. This was quite fun to make a pace line with relatives, but the newness for the other two to ride in a pace line was evident in the great fluctuations of speed depending on the leader. After approximately ten miles together the wheels almost literally started coming off. I hit a bolt or nail, or some sharp edge coming over a railroad track and a piece of my tire was ripped off. This in turn only allowed a short time of my tube running on the pavement before I flatted. Yes, it was a weird turn of events, but I could feel it coming as soon as I crossed the railroad track. I dismounted and started changing the tire to then see that a square inch of road touching rubber was no longer part of my tire. This would be problematic. I searched for a method of protecting the new tube so that I could limp down the road to the next support shop. I placed grass and a ketchup packet in between to see if that would work. It did… for 4 miles, then came the 2nd flat. This required me to use my last spare tube. I then used the old tube to pad the hole between the tube and road and that worked fairly well for a while… approximately 20 miles. Being somewhere near mile 134, I figured I had roughly 3 miles to the next stop. This stop I was hearing also had a bike repair shop, and tires for sale. I decided to start walking as there was nothing else left for me to do. After a short distance of walking, a race supporter on a Honda Goldwing rode by and asked me if I needed assistance. “Yes, can you take my credit card and buy me a tire?” After a short information exchange of what kind I needed, he rode off with my credit card. Around 10 minutes later, he came back with my credit card, and no new tire. I was mad until he explained that a race official would be coming to my aid. Shortly thereafter a Jeep Cherokee pulled up and two guys got out and put my bike in the back of the vehicle and we drove the 2 or so miles to the next checkpoint. They called into some official headquarters on a two way radio and asked if it would be OK if I finished the ride. Supposedly under the rules of the ride, they were to technically disqualify me if I received any motorized aid for any length of the ride. They needed to get permission to see if their aid would disqualify me. The great voice from beyond determined that it didn’t warrant a disqualification, and they dropped me and my bike off in front of the bicycle aid station at mile 137. It might also have been beneficial for my cause that when they came upon me, I was walking my bike uphill to the next checkpoint. Ten minutes and 50 dollars later, I had a new Gatorskin tire on my back wheel, and I was on my way. In hindsight, I should have spent 100 dollars and got two, but alas I was worried about the money, and the credit card being accepted a long ways away from home.
The next 11 miles to the next food stop were very difficult. My relatives had left me on the second flat due to fear of cramping, and I was alone. The riders were much more dispersed this far along the path, and the ones that did pass were going extremely fast and I couldn’t catch the end wheel. I was bonking. At the food stop, I ate as much as my stomach would hold and serendipitously ran into friends of the wife’s-brother-in-law that I had met 2 days prior. I jumped in line with them and now rejuvenated started making better time. Around mile 165 I got a flat in my front tire. “Are you kidding me?” I quickly replaced this one and used my last CO2 cartridge and we were back under way. Experienced with changing tires I ran my hand through the tire numerous times to see if whatever had caused the hole in the tube was still there. I found nothing. Five miles later my front tire was getting flat and it was harder to keep good speeds. I caught the issue before it became a full on flat, so in that regard we were fortunate. I noticed that if I pumped the tire up to 110 psi as I normally did, within minutes my tire would slowly be leaking air. I would watch it slowly leak air, and then we would stop and pump it up with a hand pump. We would limp along for another 3 miles and repeat the process again. Luckily this group was very patient. At mile 175 I was bonking again and ate more food than any one person should during physical activity. At around mile 185 my tire flatted again completely and we used up the last tube in the group. I pumped this up to around 80 psi and rode on the back of my seat as much as possible and we limped the remaining 25 miles to the finish. We crossed the finish line at 8:55 p.m. That was 5 minutes shy of the ‘1 Day Rider’ qualification, and we luckily have the badge for it. I was extremely grateful for the group that helped me along the last 70 miles and really enjoyed the experience on whole, the 7 flats being the exception, but in the larger picture all part of the experience.