I love this ride. For 5 years now, I’ve been raising money for Fred Hutch and doing long bike rides. This time I signed up for the 100 miler. After not doing much training at all, my plan was just to finish the ride without being in too much pain.

The festivities kicked off on Friday with a concert and dinner. I don’t know what Maya and Artie liked more – the candy or the dancing. But we all had a great time.

Sunday morning I was out of the the house by 6:30. I rode the 5 miles downhill to Fred Hutch and helped myself to a second breakfast at the start line.

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At 7:30 we were off, cruising down around Lake Washington, through Renton and on to the Green River Trail.

While on the trail I got chatting with Bradley the ex-Marine. After exchanging pleasantries, we got talking about cancer. When he was in the Marines, one of his closest friends complained about his shoulder hurting. 6 months later his friend died from a rare type of lymph node cancer. Bradley said that was harder than anything he saw in Afghanistan or Iraq.

We parted ways at the next rest stop. This is where the hills started, but they never got too bad. Rolling hills and quiet country roads. My favorite kind of riding.

Around mile 50, I felt a familiar squishiness in my rear tire. Damn! A flat! Thankfully I was only a few hundred feet to the next rest stop. I gingerly rode up and had a helpful mechanic take care of my flat in minutes. He was out of tubes, but lucky me, I always ride with a spare.

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So I rode on, through another 20 miles or so. More beautiful country roads. Then I felt that squishy feeling again. Another flat tire! Except now I’ve got no spare tube, and no mechanic in sight. I do keep some self-adhesive patches in my bag just in case, but I’ve never used them. Well, I guess I’m going find out if they’re any good. So I do my best field-repair and thankfully it seems to hold. I’m off again, back on the trail and up toward Lake Washington.

I rolled into the finish at Gas Works park at 4:00. Jen and the kids — also known as my “Team Car” — came to pick me up and spared me from having to ride home. At home there was a cute sign and a cold beer, both with my name on them.

 

Final stats:

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There are many different methods to train for a 100 mile bike ride. A method I’ve had success with in the past I call the pre-dad method.

The pre-dad method

6 months before the ride, build your plan. Start by building up your base fitness with hard, short rides. With three months to go do a series of long rides, with each one 10% longer than the last. Keep a detailed spreadsheet of your rides to ensure that you’re meeting your targets. Over the course of these months, carefully dial in your nutrition and gear. In the final two weeks, taper your training down so that you have fresh legs for the event. Crush it.

This year, I’m trying a different approach…

The two-kids-under-5 method

In January, sign up for a charity ride. In July, realize that you’ve got 4 weeks until the ride. Make a plan to go on 2 or 3 “long rides” before then. Sneak in a 30 miler one Sunday afternoon when both kids are napping. The next weekend plan for 60 miles, then break a spoke 15 miles into the ride. In the final two weeks, taper your training down by taking a business trip and not riding at all. Assume that you’re still going to crush it.

We’ll see the results of this method on Sunday. I’m sure it’ll be great.

PS. There’s still time to donate!

This is the second year for Obliteride — a fundraiser for the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center. Last year I rode the 50 miler, but I decided I’d go bigger this year and go for the full 100. Like last year, my friends and family generously donated a ton of money, helping me raise $1,664!

The weekend started with a party at Gasworks Park.

Jen and Maya enjoying the music.

Jen and Maya enjoying the music.

Some inspiration for the hard miles ahead.

Some inspiration for the miles ahead.

Michael Franti rocking the party. Maya said he was too loud.

Michael Franti rocking the party. Maya said he was too loud.

I decided that it only made sense to ride to the start. It was just 7 miles, all downhill. Sunday morning I was out the door at 6:15, taking a leisurely pace to the start at Magnuson Park. I was woefully under-trained for a ride like this, so I had only two goals.

  1. Finish
  2. Have fun
The 100 mile riders lined up.

The 100 mile riders lined up.

It was the perfect Seattle summer morning. 60 degrees. Not a cloud in the sky. And we were off, cruising through closed-off streets and around the south end of Lake Washington.

Along the shores of Lake Washington

Along the shores of Lake Washington

Along the shores of Lake Washington.

Through the Renton Airport where Boeing does final testing on the 737.

I was trying to take it easy and pace myself. Because from there we went out east and hit the two big climbs of the day. First Squak Mountain, then Tiger Mountain. After those climbs I was still feeling good and had only 60 miles to go.

This guy and I rode together for about 30 miles, trading pulls. He did most of the pulling.

This guy and I rode together for about 30 miles, trading pulls. He did most of the pulling.

This woman had flags on her bike showing everyone she's riding for. I guess she's not concerned about aerodynamics.

This woman had flags on her bike showing everyone she’s riding for. I guess she’s not concerned about aerodynamics.

Looking good at one of the rest stops.

Looking good at one of the rest stops.

I stopped for lunch at Marymoor park just after the halfway point. That’s when I started to feel the effects of under-training. It was getting hot. My legs were sore. My butt was sore. My back was sore. But I kept turning the cranks.

Climbing the last big hill of the day. Mile 80ish.

Climbing the last big hill of the day. Mile 80ish.

At Seward Park,the last rest stop of the day. I needed a break. 15 miles to go.

At Seward Park,the last rest stop. I needed a break. 15 miles to go.

The finish line!

The finish line!

I rolled into the finish about 8 hours after the start. Sore, tired, and relieved. I guzzled some water, ate some food, and relaxed in the shade.

Oh yeah, I still have to ride home. I slowly climbed back on the bike and slogged through 7 more uphill miles.

I came home to this - "Good job Daddy!"

I came home to this. “Good job Daddy!”

Final stats:

  • 118.4 miles
  • 4,885 feet climbed
  • 7:45 moving time, 10:25 elapsed time
  • Avg: 15.3 mph Max: 36.5 mph

So in the end, I finished, and fun was had (mostly).

Obliteride is a new charity ride to raise money for the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center in Seattle. 100% of the funds raised go to finding cures for cancer. Thanks to the generous donations from my friends and family, I was able to raise $1426.50. The ride raised well over $1.4 million total.

Friday night was the big kickoff party at Gas Works Park. I took Jen and Maya as my plus 1 and a half. They had a great dinner provided by Tom Douglas (our local celebrity chef) and a concert by Michael Franti.

After we sat down with our food, Jen says to me “You know that was Tom Douglas who just gave you your brisket?!” No. I did not notice. I was too focused on the brisket.

Michael Franti put on a great show. It was Maya’s first concert, and she had a blast dancing.

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Saturday morning I woke up at 5:30. Ate a big bowl of oatmeal, downed a cup of coffee, then put on a thick layer of sunscreen.

I rode the 7 miles to the start line at Magnuson Park, grabbed a pastry and got in the group of 50 mile riders. They sang the national anthem and then we were off.

I rode with the masses as we cruised up to Bothell and to the first rest stop at about 15 miles. I loaded up on PB&J and potato wedges, filled my bottles, and hit the road again.

After the first rest stop, I soon found myself riding all alone. I would occasionally worry that I was lost, only to see another reassuring course marker. It was only when the course looped back on itself that I realized why I was so alone. It was because I was way out in front of most of the 50 mile riders. I guess I’m faster than I thought.

During those solo miles I was thinking about my family full of cancer survivors and victims. Jen’s aunt Joan was just diagnosed with breast cancer. Her grandmother battled it years ago. My sister. My cousin. Two of my aunts. Both of my grandfathers. Pedaling up another hill, legs burning, riding for them.

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At the second rest stop, at roughly mile 30, I rolled in to find a throng of volunteers waiting just for me. I loaded up on Clif bars and more potatoes. One little girl working with her mom at the first aid tent asked me “Do you have any blisters? If so, we can help!” Thankfully, I declined.

After that, I rolled through Kirkland, down Holmes Point, and back onto the Burke Gilman Trail. I knew I had about 6 miles left to the finish, and it was all flat from here, so I decided it was time to empty the tank.

I was pushing hard when I caught up with two guys. The three of us formed a little pace line and pushed onward. While stuck at a light, one of them tells me “We’re counting on your young legs to bring us in.” So I obliged by getting on the front and pulling the two of them the rest of the way. I gave it everything I had left, and we were soon at the finish.

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I quickly found the food tent, and tried to replace some of the calories I burned. Kicked off my shoes and enjoyed the sounds of a Beatles cover band for a few minutes.

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But I didn’t stay too long. I still had 7 miles uphill to ride home. I climbed back on the saddle and sluggishly made my way home. A great day of riding for a fantastic cause.

Here’s the data from my day:

  • 66.3 miles
  • 4252 ft of climbing
  • 04:26:59 moving time
  • 14.9 mph avg
  • 40.9 mph max

Route:

route

Elevation profile:

elevation profile

Yesterday I rode the Echelon Gran Fondo with Don and Randy. The three of us made up the F5 Networks team. The Gran Fondo is a fundraiser for Livestrong and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer foundation. So let’s start with the most important part: thanks to the generous donations of my friends and family, I raised $2,506. And the F5 team raised $3,496. Now on to the ride report.

My alarm woke me up at 4:50 am. After a quick breakfast I loaded up the car and picked up Randy. On the drive over I find out that Randy’s new to this sort of thing. He bikes to work most days, which is about 12 miles round trip, but had never ridden more than 25 or 30 miles. And hasn’t done any training for this ride. So I tell him that I don’t expect we’ll stick together the whole ride. “I’ll wait for you at the end,” I say, optimistically.

The ride starts with a ferry ride across the Puget Sound.

The back half of the ferry was all bikes

This is not a bad way to start the day

Once we got off the ferry, we rode about half a mile to a little park for a mass start. There was lots of food, so I helped myself to a second breakfast. I also made some new friends.

My new friends, Yeti 1 and Yeti 2

The organizers line us all up in the starting chute and announce the top fundraisers. The F5 Networks team got a mention for being in the top 10 of all teams! They then sing the national anthem, and we ride out.

For the next 10 miles or so, the police have closed the streets off for us. We fly out of Kingston and on to rural roads. Randy decides that the group we’re in is going too slow for him, so he pushes ahead. I’m thinking to myself that he’s crazy. We’ve got 90 miles to go. Pace yourself dude.

We ride across the Hood Canal bridge, which gives us some of the best views of the ride. But there’s these 2 foot wide metal plates that bikes are supposed to ride on, so you have to pay close attention.

Across the Hood Canal Bridge

Don and I get to the first rest stop and catch up with Randy. He’s sitting on a hay bale, waiting for us like he’s done this before. The food at this stop is great. I get a bagel with cream cheese and lox and enjoy my third breakfast. We roll on through some beautiful country roads towards Port Townsend.

It's easy to keep pedaling when you're treated to views like this

We ride through the little downtown area of Port Townsend and to the next rest stop at Fort Worden. It’s this great little park on the beach with a light house. We end up spending a little too much time here, enjoying the sun and the views.

The beach at Fort Worden

Team F5 on the beach

Sometime after this stop is when things started to hurt. Randy pushed ahead and dropped us again. Don was lagging behind so I rode ahead of him. At about mile 70 I found myself completely alone on the course. This is when the major hills started. There were two big ones right in a row. The second one was relentless. It looked like I was almost to the top, then I’d turn a corner and realize I had a long way to go.

After the second hill, I caught up to a big guy that was keeping a pretty good pace. There was a strong headwind, so I tucked into his slipstream and started drafting behind him. That didn’t last long. I heard a “pow!” He had a blowout on his front tire.

He didn’t have a pump on him, so I stopped with him and let him borrow my mini pump. In a few minutes Don came by and stopped with us. We had him rolling pretty quickly. I guess I finally paid it forward for the help I got from the Aussie in a chicken suit on last year’s Livestrong Challenge.

The roadside repair team

Right after this was the steepest hill of the day. It was really short, but it was a freakin wall. We churned up it, zig-zagging back and forth.

Don and Flat Tire Guy pushing up the wall

We get to the next rest stop and catch up with Randy again. He’s been waiting for a while and is ready to go. So he says he’ll wait for us at the finish and heads on. Don a I grab a bite and push on. We go back over the hood canal bridge and into the home stretch.

The map says that the ride is just over 102 miles. So at about 96 miles, I start pushing it hard. I’m almost there, so let’s use up everything I’ve got left. Pretty soon my computer says I’ve gone 102 miles, and the end is nowhere in sight. I’m running out of steam here. I keep pushing. 103. 104. 105. Still no finish. Finally at 107, with nothing left in the tank, I finally see the finish banners. It’s the sweetest sight. There’s a few people cheering and clanging cowbells as I ride under the finish line.

Don riding through the finish chute

Randy’s sitting in the grass, waiting patiently for us. I kick off my shoes, change clothes, and head for the food tent. Tacos! I grab a couple and collapse in the grass.

The best taco ever.

Once I’m able to muster up the strength to stand up, we hop back on the bikes and ride the quarter mile or so back to the ferry dock. Its a beautiful and well-deserved cruise home.

The perfect end to the day

Final stats

  • Distance: 107.9 mi
  • Riding time: 7:06
  • Avg speed: 15.2 mph
  • Max speed: 42.9 mph

This weekend was the Seattle Livestrong Challenge. Earlier this year I circled this date on my calendar as THE ride to train for. It’s 100 miles of hills around the Seattle area, they close parts of the course to cars, and it’s for a great cause. Thanks to the generosity of my friends and family, I was able to raise $1,322 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

The Livestrong Appreciation Dinner

As part of the fundraising process, I joined Team Fatty – a team headed up by a guy who calls himself The Fat Cyclist. I guess he used to be fat, but now that he bikes all the time, the name “fatty” doesn’t make much sense. Anyway, Team Fatty won the team fundraising challenge, so they got a bunch of seats to the Livestrong Appreciation dinner Saturday night. I kindly offered to take one of those seats.

Dinner at the EMP

Dinner in the EMP "Sky Church"

Congressmen Jay Insley

Congressmen Jay Insley telling us how the new healthcare reforms will help cancer survivors

Evan Handler

Actor Evan Handler talking about his battle with Leukemia 20 years ago

Card from Nike

The card Nike sent to Lance Armstrong when he was diagnosed with cancer

I got home around 9, got my stuff ready for the ride, set the alarm for 5am, and tried to get to bed early.

The Ride

Alarm goes off at 5am. It’s Sunday. Why the hell would my alarm be going off so freakin early? Oh, right….

I make a big bowl of oatmeal (more carbs!) and check the weather. I had planned on short sleeves, but now I see it’s not even going to crack over 60 degrees. And there’s a significant chance of rain. New plan – long sleeves. So I quickly get my race number and signs moved to my other jersey, fill up the watter bottles, and roll out from my house at 6:15. Rolling down to the start it was in the low 50s and cloudy, so already I felt good about my decision.

Short sleeve plan

My original plan before the last minute switch to long sleeves

It’s a 6 mile, mostly downhill ride from my house to the Seattle Center. I find my way to the start line and get in the 100 mile starting group with 15 minutes until the 7am group start.

Starting line

Lined up at the start

MK at the start

Self portrait - "Before the pain"

I’ve never done a bike event where everyone starts at once. It was a great atmosphere. It was very moving to see everyone with pins showing who they’re riding for.  The guy in front of me had one that just said “Mom” and others that were filled with lots of names in tiny print. They had some announcements to get everyone pumped up, sang the national anthem, and counted down to the start. And we were off.

The first 20 miles or so was fantastic. The roads through downtown were closed off, so we had a car and red-light free trip. Then they led us onto the I-90 express lanes over the floating bridge. The roads were all for us!

Rolling through downtown

Through the I-90 tunnel

Across the floating bridge

Then on to Mercer Island. This is a great little loop that I do all the time. Lots of rolling hills, tight turns, and lush trees. I caught the back of a pace line doing about 24mph and held on as long as I could.

At the rest stop I realized that the cleat in my shoe (the thing that clips in to the pedals) was loose. I’ve seen people get stuck in their pedals this way, so I was lucky to catch it early and get it tightened up. I crossed over to the east side and started working my way through farm country.

About 30 miles in, a guy in a Cadillac jersey looks down at the fenders on my bike and says “hey, I hope we don’t need those fenders today!”  Not five minutes later it starts sprinkling. I pull over and put my jacket on. Within 10 minutes we’ve got full-on rain. The rain is relentless the rest of the day. This is also when I stop trying to take pictures as I’m riding. I blame all of this on Cadillac Jersey Guy.

Ok, so I’m cold and wet, but my legs are feeling good. Which is fortunate, since there’s some major climbs ahead. First is Tiger Mountain. Despite the fact that this is about 500 feet of climbing, it’s a really nice stretch. Heavily wooded, no cars, winding roads. And then the descent is a blast.

Then there’s another shorter climb up through Issaquah. But this one seems much worse. It’s a straight, wide road with nothing but suburbs to look at. The route flattens out after this and it’s a smooth 20 mile loop around Lake Sammamish.

At dinner the night before, everyone told me to look out for Montreux. It’s this killer hill, they say, somewhere around mile 70. I turn off the Lake Sammamish loop, and there’s this big sign for the neighborhood. One last warning sign. All it says is Montreux.

They were not kidding.  It’s 900 feet of climbing through suburban hell. As I’m slowly working my way up, several have given up and are walking their bikes. I will NOT let this hill beat me.  I will NOT walk my bike. So I push through the pain. I get to what looks like the summit, only to turn the corner and continue the climb. And then finally, I crest over the top and speed back down the other side.

At the next rest stop, the pain is starting to set in. My feet hurt, my hands are numb, my back hurts. But I’ve still got about 30 miles to go. I get behind two guys from Detroit in full Team Radioshack kit and we pull together towards Renton and around the bottom of Lake Washington. They are keeping a good pace at around 17mph, so I hold on with them and try to ignore the pain. We get around Lake Washington, past Seward Park, and up a short winding climb back towards downtown.

I pulled over at the last rest stop to get one more PB&J sandwich. There’s a band playing – why not be festive when you’ve only got 5 miles to go?

I’m riding through the area south of downtown, on my own at this point. My tire gets stuck in a groove in the pavement and it almost takes me down. But somehow I manage to stay upright and get out of the groove. That’s when I hear “PSSSSHHHHH!” Crap. Flat tire. I just bought new puncture resistant tires a few weeks ago. What could have caused this?

So I pull over and find a one inch screw embedded in my tire. Ok, I guess no amount of puncture resistance can help with that. I get out my tools, take the wheel off and start working. I’m in considerable pain. It’s cold. I’m so close to the finish. And my hands are numb. Needless to say, I’m not happy.

Just as I’m getting the tire off, a guy riding his bike on a chicken suit pulls over. “Need some help, mate?”  Ok, one better – a guy in a chicken suit with an English accent. He’s got all sorts of tools, and manages to get my tire changed in about 60 seconds. I can’t thank him enough.

I get back on the bike and push through downtown. Somewhere near the Seattle Center I realized I missed a turn. I don’t see any course markers anymore. But I know how to get back, so I just wind through downtown and get over to the start. Somehow I ended up on the wrong side of the finish line. A lady stops me and says “Hey! You’ve got to go around and go through the right way.” Fine, at this point I’m too run down to argue. So I squeeze through the barriers and get on the correct end.

“Here comes another rider!” shouts the announcer.  People start cheering and clanging cowbells as I ride through the finish line. Ok, that was cool. I’m glad I went through the right way eventually. Some lady hands me a rose.  Someone else hands me a towel.

I see my chicken-suited angel again. I give him another enthusiastic thank you. My friend Annie is working the massage tent. She wants to give me a celebratory massage, but I’ve still got another 6 miles to get home. If I lay down now, there’s no way I get back up.

Gotta keep moving. Remember at 6am when I was glad to have a nice downhill ride to the start? Yeah, that means it’s a long, slow 6 miles back. I finally make it back to the house at about 3:30 pm, pull my soggy bike gear off and take the greatest hot shower of my life.

This was without a doubt the hardest day I’ve ever had on my bike. Everything hurts. Everything is wet. I was covered in road grime. And I can’t wait for next year!

Here’s my final stats, including the ride to and from my house:
Total distance: 116.15 mi
Total ride time: 7:30:58
Avg. speed: 15.48 mph
Max. speed: 37.04 mph

I’ll admit it.  I’m spoiled by modern conveniences.  I do all my banking online.  I order groceries online from Amazon Fresh.  I use online check-in before I fly.  You get the picture.  And so I rarely have to wait in line.

But the few times that I do, I get frustrated quickly.  Ask my wife.  After two amazing weeks in Costa Rica, at the airport there was a line snaking out the door to check in for our flight home.  For the first time in two weeks I was stressed.  Isn’t there a way to check in online?  Nope.  Can I somehow use my BlackBerry to jump the line?  Nope.  I just have to wait like everyone else…

The worst is when you call a customer service line (for me it’s usually an airline) and they tell you that it will be 20 minutes until you can talk to a human.

Here’s an idea.  Instead of making me sit on the phone listening to bad hold music – and burning my cell minutes – why can’t they call me back when they’re ready?  “You can either stay on hold, or press # and we’ll call you back.”

The tech to do this is pretty simple, it just takes someone to look at it from the customer’s eyes (or ears).