Friday, August 13, 2010

RAMROD, 2010 Version

The 2010 RAMROD is in the bag.

My friend Gary and I rode together on this one. He was really hanging it out there as his longest training ride had been 70 miles and that was a while ago. But he's also tough and smart enough to ride within his limits.

When we got to Enumclaw at 5:00 am there was a heavy fog, so heavy that it was almost like a misty rain. When we took our bikes off the rack they were coated with condensation. Lucky that I had a towel in the trunk to dry off the seats. It would have been pretty unpleasant to mount up on a wet saddle.

The first 60 miles or so are gentle hills or flat to the Longmire entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park. At about mile 35 there was a water/fuel/potty stop which we took advantage of. Plus, I saw my old friend Marilyn Williams. Since she's close to my age I had to compare ride numbers with her: 45 (her) versue 41 (me). This is a game one can play all day long because the numbers are issued in reverse age order. I.e., the oldest rider is #1 and the youngest rider is the highest number. With 800+ riders a number in the 40's puts you into the seriously old codger cadre.

Gary and I hung together well to the second rest stop. We had a pretty short stop there, just long enough for us to get some fluids and food and for me to use the toilet (an ongoing theme for the day). Just as we were getting to this rest stop the fog burned off. Now we had sunshine. Then on to the park.

They were ready for us at the entrance with a special lane just for the RAMROD riders. Then it was several miles of gently rising road through old growth forest and paralleling a glacial river.

At Longmire we started up the first climb of the day. About 8.5 miles of steady up to the Reflections Lake rest stop where we spent about 30 minutes. A teensy bit more climbing and we were at Reflection Lakes with Mt. Rainier looming above everything to the left and the Tatoosh Range to our right.

Down, down, down, down: much descending to the Box Canyon aid station where we had chocolate croissants and no mosquitoes. This descent had some rough road, lots of drainage grates, and 2 tunnels. The last bit of Box Canyon followed this aid station then the short climb over Backbone Ridge.

More descending, this time with some pretty beat up road. The RAMROD folks were kind enough to mark the worst spots with fluorescent green paint. This was great because we were into and out of sun so that sometimes it was hard to see the rough spots until you were right on them. At 30+ MPH this is a bit un-nerving!

After this descent we exited at the Ohanacoposh entrance and turned left for the biggest climb of the day: Cayuse Pass. In total there's about 15 miles of climbing. The first part is gently rising through the forest. Then you go through a tunnel. It's long and uphill and VERY disorienting. The forest shade is pretty much gone from this point to the 4000+ summit of Cayuse Pass. Today was not beastly hot; this can be a real furnace some years.

After a quick toilet break we had the delicious descent to the lunch stop. About 8 miles of good road and gentle curves, open and sunny at first and eventually diving into the forest. A quick turkey and swiss sandwich plus drinks, fruit, and other goodies and we were on our way to the last section.

I've never liked this part. It's about 35 miles back to Enumclaw, slightly downhill but always with a headwind. It's just a slog. A few miles in we managed to hook up with 3 other riders in a pace line where we pulled each other along at 23 MPH or so. It was good to sit in the slipstream much of the time.

After Gary got on the front and did his pull the other 3 decided to pull off because their heartrate was too high! Gary and I continued on together through the last of the downhill and the long hill up to the Mud Mountain Dam turn. It was much more pleasant once we got off the highway as the traffic dropped off to nothing.

After the thrilling Mud Mountain descent back to the Enumclaw Valley we were back to farms and rectilinear roads. One turn and a straight shot of a couple miles and we were back to the ice cream truck.

We were very pleased with our day: less than 12 hours on the road, 10 hours riding time, 150 miles, 10,000 feet or so of climbing. And Gary was strong.

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