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