The 2013 RAMROD (http://www.redmondcyclingclub.org/RAMROD/RAMROD.html) was my first attempt at what is considered “ultra distance” cycling. For those of you who have read my past blogs you will know that I have taken this training far more seriously than I have any of my previous athletic endeavors. Keep in mind also that I am 54 years old, have essentially no inherent athletic ability, and didn’t do a single sport until I was 18 when I decide to start running and lifting weights. I developed a love for cycling in my late 20s but did mostly what I call “Mommy riding” where I lugged my kids around on bike seats and bike carts. When my youngest went to first grade I did the STP for the first time (on an old, heavy mountain bike!) and when he went off to college I actually got serious about improving my cycling performance.
Since February of this year I followed a fairly structured training routine consisting of hill repeats, interval speed training and distance training. The organizers of RAMROD conduct a weekly ride which gradually increases in mileage and climbing each week. Although I only participated in a few of those rides I did follow the training schedule they had outlined. I also made sure to eat right, get plenty of rest, and give myself enough recovery time. By the time the ride came around, I knew I could do the miles and the climbing, my only concerns were tolerating the heat and maintaining my hydration and nutrition.
The day of the ride was absolutely beautiful. We were at the start by 5:30 am, the sun was coming up and the temperature was comfortable. My plan was to start early because I had been warned about 2 things; the long hot climb up Cayuse Pass and the headwinds descending into Enumclaw from Crystal Mountain. I figured if I got to Cayuse by 1pm there would still be some shade and if I wasn’t in the last of the riders I would have plenty of people to draft through those headwind s at the finish.
The pace lines from Enumclaw to Eatonville were fast and furious. It was great having so many strong riders to help pull us all along. Traffic was cooperative and the only minor problem I had was another cyclist hitting my back wheel, but we both managed to stay on our bikes. My stomach had been hurting a bit in the morning and I was having a little trouble getting food and water down me during this section so at the rest stop in Eatonville I decided to slow my pace and take some time to eat and drink. Within the next hour I felt great and was excited as we entered Mt Rainier National Park which signaled our first climb up to Paradise. Once the climbs start most riders break apart and climb by themselves. The initial phase is wooded and shady but within a few miles you begin to see the spectacular sites of Mt. Rainier in all her splendor. Although I was trying to finish in some reasonable amount of time I had to stop and gaze in awe at Inspiration Point. I even took some pictures. This was the longest climb of the day, but honestly the scenery is so beautiful it is a pleasure to keep pedaling.
Before you actually hit Paradise there is a turn off to Stevens Canyon toward Yakima and Sunrise. There had been some road construction so the first part was a bit dicey and full of gravel. Once we hit the new part of the road it was a beautiful, smooth and fast 12 mile descent. We passed Reflection Lake on our way down which is a pristine mountain lake. Next year, more pictures there.
The following climb was short and sweet, 3 miles up Backbone ridge. Still lots of nice scenery, and another smooth and fast downhill. By then I had made a friend also on a Pinarello bike and we climbed and descended together.
Next was the infamous Cayuse Pass; long, steep and hot with nothing very pretty to look at. My friend from Backbone Ridge wanted to “hit it hard” from the beginning but I told him my plan was to take it steady on the climb and to go on without me. Sadly, I passed him lying in a creek bed to cool off half-way up the climb. I didn’t set any speed records but I made it to the top without a problem as other riders were dropping like flies from the heat and the climb. I ran into another friend from Tacoma at the rest stop at the top of the climb and we started our descent together.
I got to the famous “deli stop” next where the volunteers will make you whatever deli sandwich you want. After a quick survey of the line and talking to a few friends I decided that a better strategy would be some potato chips and a coke. The line was too long for a sandwich and really it just didn’t sound all that good. There were so many people at that rest stop I knew I would be OK on the descent but I wanted to get going.
The headwinds started within a few miles but fortunately for me there were lots of people on the road. I would hook on with a group for a while; it would break apart with some riders stopping while others kicked it faster. Eventually I would connect with another group and basically had a pace line the entire way home. When I got to Mud Mountain I was with a particularly fast group; each leader finished their pull and dropped to the back of the line. Before I knew it, I was in the #3 position and looking ahead at my chance to pull these fast riders. Unfortunately for me, and the rest of the group, I could not stay with the 2 fastest riders and I had to drop off saying “ I just can’t keep up with those two!”. The guys behind me laughed and said, “Yeah, neither can we” and the rest of us took it nice and easy all the way home.
I have to say for my first RAMROD experience I had an absolutely amazing time. I loved every moment and there wasn’t a time where I was miserable. It was a long day but I was surrounded by the most amazing beauty and incredible people. Sometimes my non-riding friends tell me I am crazy and there is “something wrong with me”. I like to say “everyone I know is exactly like me.”
Thank you to all of the wonderful people who made this possible through their words of encouragement and support. Special thanks to those who have shared my training, sweat, suffering and miles on the road. I can’t wait to do it again.