Archives for category: Cycling

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