Over 110 people turned out for Saturday’s Seattle Randonneur 100k Populaire, nearly double the attendance for last year’ event.
The day’s totals: 65.8 miles, 2,980′ elevation gain, five Clif bars, a muffin, and tall mocha.
We started at the Red Hook Brewery, in Woodinville. I don’t
think anyone has actually asked for permission for us to park there,
but the lot is plenty large. I made a mandatory pre-ride potty visit.
As we headed eastbound, climbing out among the suburban streets, I was noticing how bone dry everything looks. We’re way behind on rainfall this winter. The grasses in the gutters adjacent to the road make it look like late August, not early March.
After a nice
straight run, N.E. 165th bends left, but the official
directions have us making a hairpin turn to the right. Last year, I missed
this turn and went down the hill before realizing my error. This year, I had
all the waypoints entered in my GPS. There were several cyclists mulling
around the intersection with the same quizzical looks at the map and
Once in the sub-suburbs, we snaked downhill along the lattice of residential
streets. Each time I had to brake hard, the rear wheel let out a horrible
noise. Captain Obvious, riding behind me, let me know I had a squeaky brake.
At the bottom of the hill, we had to wait for the light to let us cross
Avondale. The directions summarize it well:
5.0 1.2 Cross Avondale (yes, up the hill)
It’s short, but very steep. My heart rate topped out here at 185bpm, a
level I’ve never seen before. The HRM says the hill was a 10.5% grade,
though others put it steeper.
Last year, I had mentioned the “secret checkpoint.” These are
used to ensure people stay on the official route. On the course
above, it’s pretty easy to figure out where they are — look for
a hilly, out-of-the-way loop. The first was on Old Woodinville-Duvall
road. I made it to this at approximately the same time as I did last year
and was greeted by the Ride Operator, Tom Lawrence.
I met Denise and her husband Steve, coincidentally also owners of
Bike Fridays. Denise and I chatted about our respective bike experiences,
agreeing that having multiple bikes are a good thing. (Hear that, Jan? 🙂
They were moving at a faster pace and motored on. I caught up to them in
Carnation at Sandy’s Espresso, the official checkpoint.
Since I was close to the end of the checkpoint’s time window, I stayed only
long enough to buy and eat a muffin.
I could have really used some coffee. State highway 203 leading to Monroe is relatively flat. With the clouds now blocking the sun, I was starting to feel cold and possibly dehydrated. I put my jacket on again, just in time for Stillwater Hill. This is another diversion to add hills and miles. And, what do you know, there’s a secret checkpoint in the middle. The climb wasn’t as bad as I remembered it on Flying Wheels. Tom stamped my card again, and I headed downhill.
About ten minutes after got back onto SR 203, Denise and Steve passed me a fourth time.
Just past the Skykomish river is Lewis Street Park in Monroe, a self-reporting checkpoint. The idea here is we’re supposed to observe something and answer the simple question. Today’s question was about a plaque in front of the restroom at Lewis Street Park. Some pens had been left for riders to fill in the answer.
I availed myself of the facilities and topped off both water bottles. Next week, when I do the McClinchy Mile, I’m going to bring my Camelbak water bladder
because it’s much more convenient and encourages me to drink while I ride. (Even with the temperature in the mid 50s, I was getting dehydrated.)
From Monroe, the route takes us southwest. The lack of trees blocking the wind makes the remaining flat portion feel harder than it should. I wondered where the tailwind had been. After crossing the Snohomish river, we turn right on High Bridge road, beginning another set of climbs. None of the hills were especially steep, but my legs felt like spaghetti trying to ascend Fales and Downes roads.
Steve and Denise passed me one final time, offering words of encouragement. This is their stomping grounds and these were the last, big hills of the day.
As they disappeared around the bend, I did a quick calculation of the time. At my current rate, it was unlikely that I’d make it back in the official time window. (For a 100k, you have 6 hours and 40 minutes total time, not riding time.) Somewhat relieved, I took a ten minute food and stretching break at the 58 mile mark. I ought to have done this earlier.
My legs were feeling more like fettucini (which is better than gemelli!) as I got back on the bike. I kept my head down and pedaled up the hill, down the hill, up the hill, down the hill, up the hill, and finally down the long hill where I picked up the Sammamish River trail. I glanced at the time again. The rest of the route was flat, I was a few miles out, and there were still several minutes left. I mustered all my remaining strength to plug forward on the trail. At the 145th street “exit,” I had five minutes left and, I thought, a mile to go. I looked up and saw the familiar structure of the Red Hook Brewery. With my sixth wind, I “sprinted” into the parking lot, looking for the ride control to get my card stamped. I had three minutes left.
Randonneuring is a timed event, not a race. Although times are recorded, you only get “credit” for finishing the event within the alloted time. There’s a lot of satisfaction in making it; however, after that wears off, the next thought is “how can I make it faster?”
Denise, who had finished about 12 minutes earlier, recounted completing RAMROD with one minute to spare. Nothing motivates quite like a hard, impending deadline.